UMass, Army pit losing streaks against each other Saturday

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AMHERST — Something will have to give Saturday afternoon in the Hudson Valley.

It has been at least a month since both UMass and Army won college football games. One of those streaks will have to end on Saturday, when the teams meet at Michie Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.

"I think any time you're in a results-based business and you don't get the results you want, it's brutal. It hurts," UMass coach Walt Bell said after last week's loss to Liberty. "I think the great thing about this game and the great thing about this team is that the majority of the time, they're a resilient group. If you look at any of the great turnarounds in the history of college football, whether it's [Wake Forest's] Dave Clawson and the things he's done at three stops, whether it's [Minnesota's] P.J. Fleck, any of those great turnarounds, it's always really, really dark before there's some light."

Since beating Akron back on Sept. 28, UMass has lost to FIU, Louisiana Tech, UConn and Liberty.

Coach Jeff Monken's Black Knights of the Hudson are in a similar free fall. Army opened its season 3-1, which included wins over Rice and UTSA, while losing at Michigan in double-overtime. Since then, Army has lost at home to Tulane, at Western Kentucky and Georgia State, at home to San Jose State and 17-13 at Air Force last week.

"We're glad to be home and have UMass coming in here. We're excited for the opportunity to play again," Monken said at a Tuesday press conference. "It's been a long time since we had a victory, unfortunately. That's been uncommon around here."

UMass' defense has been somewhat suspect most of the year. Against Liberty, the Minutemen gave up 242 yards rushing and 488 yards passing. The UMass passing defense may not be tested as much, because of Army's triple option. Four times out of UMass' nine games, the defense has surrendered 300 or more yards per game. That included a season-high 385 yards in the loss at Louisiana Tech.

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Army is 12th in the nation in rushing, averaging 248 yards per game.

The Black Knights alternate two quarterbacks and two fullbacks. The two leading rushers are fullback Connor Slomka (466 yards, 4.2 average) and quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (434 yards, 3.7 average). Five different backs have run for more than 200 yards.

There have been very few positives in this 1-8 season for the Minutemen. But they have been very successful in the red zone. UMass has failed to score only five of 26 times in the zone.

Bell's message has been consistent from Day One, and his message to the players after the Liberty game was no different.

"No matter what the scoreboard says, no matter how we've performed up to this point this year, you honor your teammates with how you play and how you finish," he said. "Postgame, [the message] was just about being really excited to go back to work. You'll hear me say that probably every day for the next three weeks.

"I'm excited to improve this thing."

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


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