I make a point out of not visiting other teams' message boards during games. The last time I did that was Columbus Day weekend of 2008, when the Bulls were playing Western Michigan, blew a multiple touchdown lead and lost in OT when the Bronco secondary hauled in a tipped Drew Willy pass. Bad juju to say the least.
That said, it's always useful to check up on what the other side is saying. Thanks to Jimmy Kelley over at Hustle Belt, we've already heard a bit from the UMass fan perspective, both in this week's Last Bull In webcast and in Get to Know Your Foe from a few days ago. In Behind Enemy Lines, we're going to take a look at the media buzz surrounding our next opponent.
After picking up its first win of the 2013 season last Saturday at Gillette Stadium against Miami (Ohio), the UMass football team heads back out on the road this weekend to take on Buffalo at UB Stadium. For UMass, the game against the Bulls is one of the few series against MAC opponents that pre-dates the Minutemen's move to the FBS level. The Minutemen and Bulls will meet for the 11th time on Saturday in a series that dates back to 1964.
We start with UMass' own rundown of the Battle of Amherst. UMass does a good job with their game day hub, which has all the usual standards (Game Notes, link to the weekly coaches' teleconference, broadcast info, etc.), but also an embedded ESPN3 player for the game. I don't expect any UB fans to watch the game through UMass' site, but it's nice to see a clean and detailed setup.
Molnar On What He Took From Playing Buffalo Last Year: "First, our team has more experience now than it did a year ago. We were new at `that winning thing' after last year after Akron."
Charley Molnar, happily, is not PJ Fleck. He knows UMass isn't going to be a world beater every game. That said, maybe I wouldn't talk about being unfamiliar and new to "that winning thing." End result, though, is Coach Molnar feels the Minutemen are better prepared for the Bulls this year, especially with the departure of bruiser Rashad Jean.
I may have added that last part.
Of course, you can't get too far into any discussion about Jeff Quinn's team without highlighting #MACKtion. Coach Molnar weighs in the student paper preview of the game:
The Daily Collegian: UMass football puts win behind to focus on Buffalo
"You have to pick and choose how you handle Khalil," Molnar said. "If we think we’re gonna put one blocker on him we’ll be sorry at the end of the day, so we’ll have to use some creative methods to try to neutralize Khalil Mack."
Maroon Musket, the foremost University of Massachusetts Amherst blog in this fine country, puts it a little more bluntly:
Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch puts up impressive numbers, but Mack is the best player in the conference.
Well how about that.
Maroon Musket also keys in on the Minutemen offensive line, and, well. Let's just say if Miami had their way at times, then it could get ugly against the Buffalo front seven even with Blake Bean and Nick Gilbo out.
The main concern is whether UMass' play calling will be its own worst enemy. The offensive line, which until last Saturday led the MAC in sacks allowed, had trouble blocking the read option against Miami (OH). The Redhawks ran wild in the backfield and frequently gobbled up UMass running backs or quarterback AJ Doyle. UMass has been pretty solid at zone blocking all season, but with a hobbled quarterback and rookie running backs, the correct reads weren't made with any level of confidence. Doyle held onto the ball too long, Wilson or Stacey Bedell chose the wrong hole, or, quite simply, Miami's defensive ends sniffed out the play. Against Buffalo, things will only get worse. The Bulls lead the conference in sacks (21), and Mack is No. 2 out of all players with six of his own. If the Minutemen try to parade a gimpy Doyle out there and make him run the read option, he can expect a face full of Buffalo turf.
UMass has some skill, though. Seven former Minutemen made 53-man NFL rosters at the start of this season, which is Victor Cruz and then six other guys. Homegrown tight end Rob Blanchflower looks to be the next Minuteman on the big stage.
AMHERST -- It has been a memorable week for University of Massachusetts tight end Rob Blanchflower. The Leominster native caught the game-winning touchdown in UMass' first win of the season on Saturday, then followed that up by earning a spot on the John Mackey Award Mid-Season Watch List, announced Tuesday, which recognizes the most outstanding tight end in the country.
But - and this is my big question - how will the UMass offensive attack create time for Blanchflower to get open while also not having him back to add blocking help?
The Bulls lost their first two games to Ohio State and Baylor but have been rolling ever since, most recently in last Saturday’s 33-0 win at Western Michigan. They pressure the quarterback with a ferocious rush led by an even more prominent NFL prospect, sack-machine linebacker Khalil Mack. That presents a particular challenge to Blanchflower, who’ll be asked to get open quickly when he’s not staying in to help with pass protection. "If we think we’re going to put one blocker on Khalil, we’ll be sorry at the end of the day," said Molnar. "So we’ll have to use Blanch in some creative ways to try to neutralize the rush."
No matter where you turn in pregame chatter this year, it comes back to Khalil Mack.
Thanks for reading. Of course there's more to these articles than the quotes and I'd encourage you to read through.
You can expect to see future editions of Behind Enemy Lines the day before Football games. During basketball season, look for a shorter version of it the night before or morning of the matchup.