After loss to Southern Illinois, UMass football takes look in mirror

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AMHERST — Mirrors all over the University of Massachusetts campus were poised to be overused last weekend. Lose a football game everyone expected to win, and UMass football players were ready for some deep reflection.

"Don't make the same mistake twice, and hold yourself accountable before you point fingers at someone else," UMass linebacker Jarvis Miller said after the Minutemen were thrashed by Southern Illinois Saturday night. "Look at yourself in the mirror, that's the big thing. Like I said, it's another day. What's done is done. Look at the film, be critical of yourself and make sure you don't make the same mistake twice."

Saturday's home opener at McGuirk Alumni Stadium was one that the players will never put into their scrapbooks and coach Walt Bell might, only because it was his second-ever game as a head coach.

A look at Saturday's final stats shows that in the 45-20 win, Southern Illinois had 502 total yards to 321 for UMass. The Salukis possessed the ball for five more minutes, converted 5 of 11 third downs while UMass converted on only 6 of 17 third-down situations.

"People don't really realize how hard it is to win a college football game," Miller said. "The little things really add up. Those film sessions after the game, making sure you don't make the same mistake twice [because] the mistake that you make, another team is going to try to exploit it next week."

Take Saturday's game for example. The Minutemen took the opening kick off and drove to the SIU 11-yard line and they could not convert on either third or fourth down. Had UMass scored, and then scored again on the next drive — an eight-play, 25-yard drive after a bad punt — it might have been a 13-0 lead. With that, the game plans for both UMass and Southern Illinois would have changed.

After scoring on Randall West's four-yard run, the Minutemen punted on their next four series. Three times, UMass went three-and-out.

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Then in the second half, interceptions on consecutive series, which SIU converted into touchdowns, put the game out of the Minutemen's collective reach.

Up next for UMass is a date with Charlotte. The 49ers are 1-1 after losing 56-41 to Appalachian State on Saturday. The 49ers lost 49-31 last year in Amherst

"You don't want to step back," Miller said. "You want to keep progressing."

For his part, Bell admitted he was disappointed by Saturday's outcome, but still says the team will rebound.

"We obviously have a long way to go," he said to reporters on Saturday. "Even probably in one of the most miserable times I've had in my entire life standing outside of a patch of white lines, there's still zero doubt in my brain that this thing is ... going to be good. I'm still confident in our plan, I'm still confident in our entire staff.

"More importantly, I'm still confident in our young people, and we're going to find a way."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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