By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Before the 2012 season commenced, Framingham State head coach Tom Kelley noted in an interview with Noontime Sports that he hoped his team would be able to remain healthy this year.
Last season, the Rams struggled to keep their opening day roster on the field, as a number of quarterbacks and kickers, along with numerous positional players were ushered to the bench due to injuries.
Yet, despite missing some key pieces on both sides of the ball, Framingham State was still able to earn a spot in the New England Football Conference championship, which they wound up losing to Western New England College.
This year, Kelley is experiencing déjà vu, as his first and second string quarterbacks, Matt Silva and Mitchell Johnson, sustained injuries to their shoulders in week one against Endicott College, while middle linebacker Pat McGrath suffered a foot injury last weekend against Nichols College.
“They’re used to it now,” Kelley exclaimed after the New England Football Writer’s Gridiron Club of Greater Boston luncheon on Wednesday. “I’ve always said since the day I [became the head coach] of the program that we’ve always had a philosophy of next guy up. If someone screws up or somebody gets hurt, we have confidence [in the next guy].”
Kelley’s philosophy certainly seemed to work this past week, as the Rams (1-1) evened their record with an impressive 34-6 victory against Nichols.
Running back Melikke Van Alstyne, who earned the conference’s offensive player of the week honor, rushed for 222 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns, while fourth-string quarterback Matt Mangano compiled 171 yards on 16 carries. Mangano also recorded two rushing scores, too.
“We challenged our offensive line and said we’re going to run the ball, so let’s see what you’re made of,” Kelley said of his team’s game plan against Nichols.
The plan certainly succeeded, but this week against UMass Dartmouth, Kelley hopes his squad can return to being a balanced offense. However, that particular request may not be granted, especially if the Rams signal caller continues to follow his coaches’ orders from last week.
“[When we moved] Matt Mangano over we knew that he was on a short leash because it was a short week [last week] and he didn’t get as many reps as he could get in him, and we told him three-step drop and if nothing opens up take off,” said Kelley.
The Rams head coach knows that managing a football team, especially a depleted one is a challenge, but it’s something he feels his team will be able to overcome, particularly after what they experienced last season.
“Last week I had some real concerns because we got beat pretty good by a pretty good Endicott team,” Kelley said. “We certainly have a long way to go as a football team and we’re not satisfied, but we’ll take it and we’re limping along.”
This week, the Rams will celebrate their 40th anniversary and certainly a win in front of a plethora of former players, as well as Kelley’s former teammates could certainly boost the team’s moral.
“They know this is going to be a big game for the school and when we get on that bus and go down [to Bowditch Field] they’ll start seeing some of the older guys and I’ll certainly have some of them talk to the team this week,” said Kelley.
“I’m excited to see everybody coming back and it’s a big week for me and for the program and where we’re going and hopefully we put on a good show for them.”
Injuries, bumps and bruises didn’t derail the Rams last season, so one can only imagine what it might do this season for a team that was favored to win their NEFC division.
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