It’s been an exciting few weeks for the MIT football team, which entered its bye week with an impressive 6-0 record, including a 3-0 mark in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) standings.
The Engineers, who were tabbed once again the top team in the New England in the D3 Coaches Poll earlier this week, seem to be enjoying some much-needed downtime before they return to the gridiron next week for an important four-game stretch, beginning with a home date against Coast Guard Academy.
Earlier this week, we caught-up with first-year coach (and former defensive coordinator) Brian Bubna to discuss his team’s impressive play through six weeks.
On the team limiting opponents to roughly 14 points per game: “We have some pretty good talent at three spots: defensive line, linebacker and defensive back. I think the big part of (our success on defense) is a mix of older guys and younger guys, but also the way they play, too.”
On the play of senior quarterback Udgam Goyal: “He kind of got put in there at a young age. He played like a freshman (his first year) and a sophomore (his second season, but now, as a senior) he’s put it all together, and become what we’ve hoped for.”
On Miguel Wagner’s running game: “As a runner, he’s very physical. He can take a one or two-yard run, and turn it into three or four, and keep the offensive moving.”
On the team’s final four contests: “To win the conference, you have to go undefeated throughout conference play. Even if you lose one, you’re hoping that someone else loses one. You gotta win ‘em all in conference.”
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The sixth week of the New England D3 football season is set to kickoff tomorrow – are you ready for some football?
Similar to last week, it is time to dish out our 10 Games to Watch for Week Six, as well as who we think will win their respective matchup.
Last Week (Week Five): We went 8-2 with our picks, so lets see how we do this week!
Season Predictions Records: 33-17 (BIG bounce back week last week, so let’s see if we can keep it rolling this week!)
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Friday Night Lights | Oct. 5th, 2018
Dean College at Husson Univ. (7 p.m.): The Eagles scored an important win last week against SUNY Maritime, but must find a way to stop an up and coming Bulldogs team that appears to be a contender in the ECFC. PREDICTION: Husson 35, Dean 32
Plymouth State at Bridgewater State (7 p.m.): This is a must-win for the Bears, who have rebounded since falling to Framingham State in its initial MASCAC clash of the season. PREDICTION: Bridgewater State 24, Plymouth State 16
Saturday Games | Oct. 6th, 2018
Coast Guard Academy at Springfield College (12 p.m.): The last time the Bears beat the Pride was in 1999. The win was coach Bill George‘s initial victory with Coast Guard Academy. Perhaps he scores his second win against Springfield this week on the road? PREDICTION: Coast Guard 24, Springfield 20
Fitchburg State at Framingham State (12 p.m.): Framingham State remains the front-runner in the MASCAC, but this is a game they must-win, especially if they want to keep pace with Western Connecticut. PREDICTION: Framingham State 28, Fitchburg State 20
Catholic Univ. at WPI (12 p.m.): The Engineers returned to the win column last week with a conference victory over Maine Maritime and should find a way past these Cardinals this week in Worcester. PREDICTION: WPI 28, Catholic 17
MIT at Maine Maritime (12 p.m.): Its homecoming for coach Brian Bubna, who began his coaching career with the Mariners. MIT scored an impressive win last week and should keep its momentum going this week in Maine. PREDICTION: MIT 28, Maine Maritime 10
Williams College at Bates College (1 p.m.): A friend of our site thinks this could be a trap game for the Ephs, but we think the Purple and Gold will continue their early season momentum. PREDICTION: Williams 28, Bates 14
Trinity College at Hamilton College (1 p.m.): The Continentals scored their first win of the season last week against Wesleyan, thanks Christian Snell‘s blocked punt late in the fourth quarter. Snell pounced on the loose ball in the end zone to record the go-ahead touchdown. Perhaps Snell blocks another punt this week and reaches the end zone against Trinity? PREDICTION: Hamilton 26, Trinity 20
Amherst College at Middlebury College (1:30 p.m.): The Panthers have rebounded from their week one setback to Wesleyan with back-to-back wins over Bowdoin and Colby, but this is a must-win for the Blue and White against a talented Amherst squad, which has won three-straight. PREDICTION: Amherst 28, Middlebury 21
Tufts University at Bowdoin College (1:30 p.m.): Ryan McDonald should once again find a way to get the job done, both through the air and on the ground. PREDICTION: Tufts 35, Bowdoin 17
But after practiced concluded, I had a chance to quickly catch-up with first-year coach Brian Bubna, who is eager to lead the Engineers into their first game next Friday, August 31st when they host Becker College at Steinbrenner Stadium (kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.).
Here are some takeaways from my conversation with Coach Bubna, who is no stranger to the Engineers football team. Bubna has spent nine seasons with the program, and was most recently the squad’s defensive and recruiting coordinator before being named the head coach in March.
On creating a fun, but competitive environment: “We try to keep it competitive and fun because these guys have so much academic responsibilities and internships, so when they get out here it has to be fun and it has to be excitable, too. We work hard and have fun doing it, so the guys enjoy it. We go from drill to drill with different stuff. We try to change it up, so it is not the same thing every day, so we can keep them on their toes.”
On what party means to the MIT football team: “Yeah, that is just kind of our definition for how we want to go about working hard or what our intensity level is and just how we want to do things each day. So, it is about going hard and having fun, so that is what party means to us.”
On inching closer to the start of a new season: “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, so as coaches we’re going, ‘oh man, we’ve got to work this situation, these scenarios or work these different special teams’ things,’ so there is so much to work on and so much to practice, and even going through it once (or) twice is not enough. You need to get more reps in, so I think the guys are getting more and more excited for our first game, while the coaches are still thinking about what we need to accomplish between now and then, but that is just part of being a coach.”
On being more involved with the game plan instead of just focusing on defense: “It definitely adds to the amount that you have to look at and worry about when putting together a game plan. So it’s great if the defense looks great, but on the other hand it’s like well, what was the issue offensively that we have to worry about? So, it has to be all offense, defense and special teams – it can’t just be a one-sided plan, so it adds to the amount that you have to look at, but we’ll make it work.”
On more young coaches (or former players) that want to get into coaching: “It is one of these things where if you want to try and get into coaching, you kind of have to do it early on or after you graduate. I started a bit later than most guys, but you have to get in when you’re young. It does take a while to move up, but we have been pretty fortunate here at MIT with a lot of our coaches coming back year after year. Some of them started as volunteers, but are now paid coaches, but I think being a little bit on the younger side helps with relating to the guys because you’re younger, as well. Also, the rule changes you see in the NFL and college shows that every year football is changing and there is new kickoff rules this year, so every year is changing and you have to be adaptable to it. I don’t think any other sport has changed as much as football has in the past 10-to-20 years to make it safer, competitive and entertaining, but these are all good changes.”
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It’s football season – yes, it has finally returned. And for the past few days, I have had the opportunity to visit with a few teams, including MIT, which seems eager to begin its season next Friday, August 31st when they host Becker College at 7 p.m.
This fall, MIT will be guided by the program’s former defensive and recruiting coordinator, Brian Bubna, who takes over for Chad Martinovich, who left earlier this year to accept the head coaching role with the University of Rochester.
Since being named the new leader of the Engineers, Bubna has implemented a unique culture that values two things: hard work, but also making sure his student-athletes are have fun.
Additionally, Bubna and his student-athletes have also embraced another word (or phrase, which appeared on the team’s Twitter handle a few days ago) – sure, it may not always be associated with the sport of football, but it seems to be keeping a smile on the players’ faces, though.
So, what is this word? The answer … party!
But, why party?
Well, allow senior linebacker Andrew DeNucci to explain what it means to this group of Engineers: “(Coach Bubna’s) big thing is party. Come out here, have a good time … we’re playing football, so we are out here to party and have fun.”
Added Bubna, “We try to keep it competitive and fun because these guys have so much academic responsibilities and internships, so when they get out here it has to be fun and it has to be excitable, too.
“We work hard and have fun doing it, so the guys enjoy it. We go from drill to drill with different stuff. We try to change it up, so it is not the same thing every day, so we can keep them on their toes.”
Tuesday’s morning session seemed like a fun practice – I was able to watch the final hour, which included a few group drills, as well as a competitive 11-on-11 that featured a touchdown strike over the middle from senior quarterback Udgam Goyal. Goyal enjoyed a successful junior season, recording a few career-bests, including completions (170), passing yards (1,922) and touchdowns (14).
Goyal should continue last season’s success this fall – he will have some familiar teammates to target, including classmate Eddy Garcia-Montes, who led the MIT receiving core with 55 receptions for 719 yards and six touchdowns.
Another receiver to watch this fall will be sophomore Keithen Shepard, who finished his initial season with 32 receptions for 365 yards and one touchdown. Shepard should also be seen on special teams again this fall – last season, he fielded 12 punt returns (129 yards) and 11 kick returns (261 yards).
Extra Notes from Tuesday’s Practice
I had a chance to chat with Andrew DeNucci about the MIT defense, which yielded an average of two scores per game (16.3) last fall.
DeNucci will certainly be the focal point of this year’s unit due to a few graduation losses, including linebacker Matt Nicolai and defensive back Mitch Turley.
But the good news for the Engineers is DeNucci is back after recording multiple career-highs last fall, including total tackles (70.0), tackles for a loss (7.5) and sacks (2.5).
So, what worked for you last fall, Andrew? “I think the biggest thing is we have a great d-line and it starts with those guys up front. The less guys that are blocking the linebackers, the more free we are to make plays.”
DeNucci should certainly be able to make a few plays this fall, thanks to some key returners on the defensive line, including juniors CJ Reilly and Ben Bennington. Additionally, the unit returns juniors Sam Cantrell (linebacker) and AJ Iversen (defensive back).
In addition to some key returners, DeNucci is confident that some of the newcomers and first-years will make an impact, as well.
The defense will certainly be counted on with finding ways to slow down their opponents, especially Springfield College and WPI, two teams that will certainly be in the mix with MIT for the top spot in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). MIT finished 7-3 overall last season, including 5-2 in the NEWMAC, but junior halfback John Robertson believes his team’s current confidence should help the unit contend for its initial NEWMAC regular season crown.
“I think (what) makes all the difference in a season is believing you can actually go out there and win the title, win the conference,” said Robertson, who led the rushing unit with 882 yards on 166 carries for 11 touchdowns.
“There is a confidence (amongst the current group, along with some) excitement, so we know we can do it because we have been that close before, so I think last season really did set the pace and (we’re) looking to see it carry over to this season.”
For MIT to contend for some hardware, they will certainly need Robertson to enjoy another successful season in the backfield. Robertson appeared to be in midseason form on Tuesday, zigzagging through various gaps on both sides of the line, while bursting past defenders in the secondary. Similar to DeNucci, Robertson will also be a player to watch for the Engineers this fall.
We’ll have more coverage of the MIT football team, along with other New England squads as we inch closer to a brand new season. But in the meantime, make sure to stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – you can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel, as well!