Sunday September 2, 2012

EAST HARTFORD, CONN.

Students all across the United States are heading to their college campuses this week to begin the fall semester. For the University of Massachusetts football team, classes began on Thursday night, and the Minutemen were truly schooled.

"It didn't go the way we planned it, obviously," UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn told reporters after Thursday's 37-0 shellacking in East Hartford. "We've got a lot of things to correct."

First-year head coach Charley Molnar admitted he was surprised by how the game played out. He said he was especially surprised that the Minutemen didn't get on the scoreboard.

You have to remember that the first snap Wegzyn took in the game was the first snap he had ever taken in a college football game. The redshirt freshman admitted he was under the gun by the bigger and stronger Huskies from that first snap. When four of the five starters on the UMass offensive line were different than what was seen on the pregame two-deep, you kind of figured it was going to be a long night.

It was a tough night for the new spread offense. The Minutemen had 13 possessions in the game, punted on 12 and nine were three-and-out series.

But if you are looking for a clichéd silver lining in the dark cloud or if you prefer to see the glass half full to half empty, this UMass team is far closer to its opponents on the defensive side of the ball than it is on the offensive side.

Those 37 points and 372 net yards do stick out like a sore thumb. Remember this, however, UConn started only one of its 13 drives inside its 40 -- and that was at its 38-yard line. When your offense is giving up the ball quickly and your defense is on the field for nearly 37 minutes, bad things happen.

"The inability of the offense to sustain drives, giving UConn short fields, it's just impossible to play great defense over and over again," said Molnar. "I thought the defense hung in there. There were times I didn't think they gave the effort that I wanted. Guys weren't ready for the snap of the ball.

"All in all, I thought the defense probably played as well -- in spots -- about as well as expected, especially without any help from the offense or the kicking game. They were like out there all by themselves."

The UMass front four of Trevardo Williams, Ryan Worth, Julian Campenni and Jesse Joseph actually acquitted themselves quite well. Where Connecticut was more successful running the ball was out on the edge, where the superior speed of a Big East team showed against a group that one year ago was playing James Madison and Delaware.

The Minutemen might be 0-3 before it plays its first-ever Mid-American Conference game on Sept. 22 at Miami (Ohio). The home opener is six days away against Big 10 doormat Indiana at Gillette Stadium. Seven days later, it's back to the Big House for a contest against Michigan.

Ultimately, this journey for UMass isn't about one game. It isn't even about one season.

It's like college and classes. You're not a success if you pass your first exam, and you're not necessarily a success if you get a good grade right off the bat. It's about getting four years of good grades and graduating.

That's why the bad grades after the opener have to sting. They also have to be forgotten.

"You just have to swallow your pride and correct it," said Wegzyn, "and make sure it doesn't happen again. This is more of a building kind of a game."