UMass Football Will Play Football This Fall

UMass Football

The UMass football team will play games this fall despite canceling its season in August. (PHOTO COURTESY: Eva Trainer/Daily Collegian)

By Matt Noonan 

One month after announcing its 2020 season had been canceled, the University of Massachusetts has decided to reverse course and allow its football team an opportunity to play some games this fall, beginning as soon as next month. 

The decision to return to the gridiron was announced earlier today and was based on the program’s “stringent COVID-19 safety protocols and rigorous testing regimen,” which has been in place since the student-athletes returned to the Amherst campus in June. Additionally, the school – and yes, the program, too – watched other schools and conferences announce they would be returning to the field over the past few weeks after initially deciding to cancel their respective season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

UMass has administered more than 1,800 coronavirus tests over the past 13 weeks with just two tests coming back positive. The school plans to continue testing its student-athletes, coaches, and staff members multiple times per week, and has the capacity to ramp up testing if needed to “meet additional opponent requirements in order to play games, if necessary.” 

“Today is a great day for Massachusetts Football,” coach Walt Bell said, via today’s release about the Minutemen returning to the gridiron this fall. “Everyone associated with our program is excited to play football this fall.” 

Bell would continue by adding that he and the program “are grateful to our campus leadership for supporting academic and competitive opportunities for our student-athletes and staff to do what they love in a safe manner.” 

UMass was scheduled to compete against 12 teams this fall, but the expectation is their new schedule will consist of fewer teams. Dates and opponents will be announced at a later date and time, and the school will not permit fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium this fall. 

On This Date Last Year, UMass Dartmouth Outlasted Husson Football In Overtime

Stephen Gacioch led the Corsairs to an exciting overtime victory one year ago on this exact date. (PHOTO COURTESY: UMass Dartmouth Athletics)

By Matt Noonan 

Yes, I miss New England D-III football, but luckily we have some great memories to revisit this fall, including an exciting overtime clash that occurred on this exact date one year ago between Husson University and UMass Dartmouth

The Corsairs outlasted the Eagles, 48-41, in overtime, thanks to an impressive showing by quarterback Stephen Gacioch, who concluded the contest 26 of 42 for 512 yards and five touchdowns. The Rhode Island native also led the UMass Dartmouth rushing attack with 27 yards on 17 carries. 

Husson led UMass Dartmouth, 21-14, after one quarter of play and held a seven-point advantage at the break (27-20). 

The Corsairs erased the seven-point deficit in the third quarter with a pair of touchdown passes from Gacioch to DJ Machado and Pedro DelToro while Husson kept pace with the hosts by recording a 36-yard touchdown pass late in the frame from David Morrison to Tyler Halls

UMass Dartmouth would push ahead late in the fourth quarter when Olawale Junaid capped a four-play, 36-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown before Husson countered to even the score and send the game into overtime when Morrison connected with Aidan Hogan for a seven-yard touchdown pass. 

Gacioch and the Corsairs would again respond in the extra session when the UMass Dartmouth signal-caller located Abbi Bamgbose for a 23-yard score before the hometown team’s defense denied the Eagles a chance to even the score on its ensuing possession. 

The win – certainly an exciting one for the Blue and Gold – bumped UMass Dartmouth’s overall record to 2-0 while the setback was the first of the season for the Eagles. 

MIT’s Raman Joins The Memphis Grizzlies As An Assistant Coach

Sonia Raman, who has coached the MIT women’s basketball team for 12 seasons, was named an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. (PHOTO COURTESY: MIT Athletics/DSPics.com)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Sonia Raman, who has guided the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) women’s basketball team for the past 12 seasons, was named an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies earlier today. 

Raman replaces Niele Ivey, who was recently named the head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team back in April. 

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Memphis Grizzlies coaching staff,” Raman said, via today’s release, which can be found on the team’s website. “I can’t wait to get to Memphis and get started with Taylor (Jennings), his staff, and the team’s emerging young core.”

Added Jennings, “We are beyond excited to welcome Sonia to the Memphis Grizzlies. She has a high basketball IQ and a tremendous ability to teach the game, as well as a strong passion for the game. She is going to be a great addition to our current coaching staff.” 

Memphis concluded its 2019-20 campaign with 34 wins and 39 losses – they fell short of advancing to the opening round of the National Basketball Association‘s (NBA) restarted playoffs in Orlando, Florida by losing to the Portland Trailblazers in a one-game playoff. Portland, which secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, saw its championship hopes dashed by the Los Angeles Lakers (LA beat Portland in five contests). 

At MIT, Raman guided the Engineers to a pair of New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament Championships, along with two appearances in the NCAA D-III Tournament. Raman is the winningest coach in program history and led the Engineers to 91 victories in the last five years. 

Prior to being named the head coach of the MIT women’s basketball program, Raman spent time as an assistant at alma mater Tufts University and Wellesley College

“I have been proud to call MIT my home for the last 12 years,” said Raman, via today’s announcement from MIT

Football Friday: Revisiting Framingham State’s 2012 Campaign

Endicott Football

Framingham State’s Melikke Van Alstyne chases Endicott College’s PJ Bandini after an interception in the second half. (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Friday, everyone!

And welcome to our second installment of ‘Football Friday,’ a post where we revisit stories, teams, coaches, and student-athletes that we have covered over the past decade.

Today, we’re jumping back to 2012 to highlight a Framingham State University football team that not only won the New England Football Conference (NEFC) championship against Salve Regina University but also advanced to its first-ever NCAA D-III Tournament.

The Rams’ run toward a national championship, unfortunately, concluded in the opening round against SUNY Cortland – the Red Dragons edged Framingham State, 20-19, despite a fourth-quarter rally by the Black and Gold.

Yet, despite a one-point setback in the national tournament, the 2012 season was quite a memorable one for the Rams, which captured the program’s first and only NEFC title, while four members of the squad, including coach Tom Kelley, garnered major postseason awards from the conference. Additionally, Framingham State won 10 games for the first time in program history and only lost once in the regular season to Endicott College, which defeated the 2011 NEFC Bogan Division and Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) champions on the opening day of the 2012 season.

Endicott’s defense shined in its week one victory against the Rams as the unit finished the contest with five interceptions, five tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery, and a trio of pass break-ups.

“We stuffed them on first down (and) forced them (into) long second downs (and) that really got them out of their groove,” Endicott’s Andrew Holfinger said following his team’s initial win of its 2012 campaign.

Luckily, the loss to the Gulls was quickly forgotten six days later when Framingham State scored its first win of the 2012 season against Nichols College.

The Rams, who defeated the Bison by a score of 34-6, leaned on its ground game as both Matthew Mangano and Melikke Van Alstyne combined for four touchdowns and 393 rushing yards.

The victory over the Bison seemed to provide the Rams with a ton of momentum as they would go onto capture its next nine contests, including a 16-0 win over rival Bridgewater State University followed by an exciting overtime victory against Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Not only did the Framingham State offense shine throughout the 2012 season, but so did  the defense, which limited its numerous foes to 12.8 points per game, along with 63.0 rushing yards per contest.

After registering just seven points in the opening week, the Rams concluded seven contests with 30 points or more. But during the team’s final regular-season contest against Worcester State University, all three units – offense, defense, and special teams – collaborated to produce a season-high 65 points.

The 65-21 win over the Lancers allowed the Rams to clinch its second-straight NEFC Bogan Division crown, as well as secure a spot in the conference’s championship round one week later against Salve Regina.

“We’re certainly going to be tested,” Kelley said when previewing his team’s contest against the Seahawks at the New England Football Writers’ Gridiron Club of Greater Boston luncheon, which was held at Harvard University.

Salve Regina entered the contest with an identical 9-1 record. The Seahawks averaged nearly 400 yards of offense while the defense limited opponents to roughly two touchdowns per game.

But despite scoring the first points of the 2012 NEFC title game, Salve Regina struggled to contain both Melikke Van Alstyne and Matthew Silva, who combined for three rushing touchdowns. 

James Muirhead led the Rams defense with eight total tackles, including three stops for a loss of 17 yards and one forced fumble.

Salve Regina, which trailed Framingham State by four points (14-10) at the break, attempted to mount a late comeback during the final minutes of the fourth quarter but saw its rally dashed when the Rams recovered its onside kick.

Moments after the final kickoff of the game was recorded, the Rams celebrated a hard-fought championship, which Muirhead considered “so surreal.”

“All the hard work paid off,” said Muirhead, who was named the Bull Mottola Championship Game Most Valuable Player Award following the final whistle.

“I don’t really have any words to explain it,” he would add.

The 28-16 win over the Seahawks was a culmination of the Rams’ commitment of hard work and determination that was fueled by an overtime setback one year earlier in the same contest to Western New England. And while the victory over the Seahawks did not spark a deep postseason run, it was certainly the beginning of many more conference titles and postseason appearances for a squad that has maintained its success over the past few years.

Watching – and yes, covering – this team truly made me fall in love more with small college football. The 2012 season truly marked the beginning of my tenure of producing content on various New England D-III athletic teams and programs, and I am thankful for the time both Tom Kelley and the players provided me throughout this exciting and historic campaign.

Football Friday: Revisiting Middlebury’s Perfect 2019 Season

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Middlebury College quarterback Will Jernigan guided the Panthers to its third perfect season in program history in 2019. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Friday, everyone.

And welcome to our first of many ‘Football Friday’ posts, which will revisit (and yes, highlight, too) previous campaigns, stories, and games we have covered since our blog began pressing the publish button back in May 2009.

Today, we’re revisiting last year’s perfect season by the Middlebury College football team, which saw the Panthers win nine games, as well as capture the 2019 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title.

The 2019 NESCAC crown was the team’s first outright title since 2007. It was also the program’s fourth championship – they shared the crown in 2000 and 2013.

Middlebury’s run toward its first conference crown in nearly a decade featured many twists and turns, including an epic double-overtime win over Amherst College (34-31), along with two hard-fought season-ending victories against Hamilton College (14-7) and Tufts University (31-24). 

While the team’s three-point win over the Mammoths may have been their most thrilling victory of the 2019 season, they also scored some dramatic (and last second) victories against Colby College (27-26) and Williams College (17-13).

The one-point win over the Mules was something I discussed with Colby’s head coach Jack Cosgrove earlier this summer – he told me it “would have been a great win for (his) program.”

Middlebury, which entered the game riding a four-game winning streak, was held to just seven points in the final frame while the visitors produced 13 points on two touchdowns – they almost finished the frame with 16 points, but a game-ending 29-yard field goal sailed wide of the goalposts.

“Yeah, we were in a football game,” Cosgrove said of his team’s heartbreaking defeat to the Panthers.

But beyond their epic and dramatic finishes, Middlebury’s most impressive performance of the 2019 season occurred one week after their win over Colby when they defeated Wesleyan University in a battle of undefeated teams.

Middlebury beat Wesleyan, 45-21 while finishing the game with 529 yards of total offense. Will Jernigan, who was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year, concluded the highly anticipated matchup with four touchdown passes, while halfback Alex Maldjian rushed for a game-high 95 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.

Jack Pistorius led the Panthers defense with 10 total tackles, including two sacks for a loss of 11 yards while Nick Leone finished with four total stops, which included three tackles for a loss of 12 yards.

WillJernigan19Williams-11

Middlebury College’s Will Jernigan was named the 2019 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

Middlebury would continue its winning ways over the next three weeks to cap its perfect season, but as noted above, their final two victories over Hamilton and Tufts were certainly not easy.

The Continentals of Hamilton limited the Panthers to their fewest points in a single contest (14) – they also kept Middlebury off the scoreboard for three-straight quarters.

Against the Jumbos, Middlebury needed its defense to fend off a late rally by Tufts, which came within one touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. The Panthers recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff to not only seal the win but cap its magical season with a perfect season.

Unfortunately, the Panthers won’t have a chance to defend their conference crown this fall due to the conference canceling competition because of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but you can bet that Middlebury would have been ready to go toe-to-toe with its conference foes, including both Wesleyan and Williams College, which finished their respective campaigns with identical 8-1 records.

The 2019 NESCAC football season was exciting, but the wait for its next kickoff – not just Middlebury’s, but all 10 teams – will certainly be worth it.