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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By NoontimeSports.com | @NoontimeSports & @Noontime_FB
The fourth week of the New England D3 Football season has arrived, which means it is time to unveil our newest Top 10 poll of the season, as well as our ‘teams are on the rise.’
Trinity College slid into the top spot for the first time this season with a convincing 35-0 win over Colby College, while Wesleyan University moved up two spots to the second position with a monstrous win over Middlebury College. Both teams will look to keep their momentum going this week against Bates College and Tufts University.
Salve Regina and Western Connecticut join the poll this week after each squad secured important week three wins. Western Connecticut scored an important win over Plymouth State and will attempt to win their third-straight contest against the Seahawks on Saturday, who defeated Dean College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Finally, MIT moved up to the seventh position with a 31-29 win over Endicott College on the road last weekend. The Engineers have been an exciting story thus far under first-year coach Brian Bubna, who will attempt to earn his first NEWMAC win as a head coach on Saturday when MIT welcomes Catholic University to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This year’s Noontime Sports Top 10 New England D3 Football poll is assembled by local coaches and media members.
New England D3 Football: Week Four Poll | Monday, September 17th, 2018
1. Trinity College
1-0 | Last Week No. 2
Week Four: Bates (9/22)
2. Wesleyan Univ.
1-0 | Last Week No. 4
Week Four: Tufts (9/22)
3. Springfield College
2-1 | Last Week No. 1
Week Four: WPI (9/22)
4. Amherst College
1-0 | Last Week No. 3
Week Four: Hamilton (9/22)
5. Framingham State
2-1 | Last Week No. 5
Week Four: Mass. Maritime (9/22)
2-1 | Last Week No. 6
Week Four: Springfield (9/22)
3-0 | Last Week No. 8
Week Four: Catholic
8. Western Conn.
2-0 | Last Week NR
Week Four: Salve Regina
9. Western New Eng.
2-1 | Last Week No. 9
Week Four: Anna Maria
10. Salve Regina
2-1 | Last Week NR
Week Four: Western Conn.
ON THE RISE: Coast Guard Academy (2-1), Endicott College (1-2), Middlebury College (0-1) Tufts University (1-0), Williams College (1-0) and Worcester State (2-1)
2018 Noontime Sports Top 10 New England D3 Football Polls
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!
But heading into the Engineers’ upcoming campaign, Herrington, who hails from Clearfield, Pennsylvania, seems confident that last season’s success could translate into even more this year – he certainly would like to cap his four-years with the WPI football program by being perfect in both extra points and field goals.
“I would like to see my stats (at the end of the season read) 15 for 15 or 16 for 16 on field goals and 40 for 40 on extra points,” said Herrington.
Herrington has the right attitude to accomplish his preseason goal, but plans to take it “game-by-game” this fall – he doesn’t seem interested in thinking about his kicks in October or November.
Prior to his team’s preseason practice on Monday, Noontime Sports caught-up with the senior place kicker and punter to chat about his personal goals heading into the upcoming season, as well as some important advice he received as a camper years ago from Robbie Gould, who is currently kicking field goals for the San Francisco 49ers.
What’s the biggest goal for you heading into a brand-new season?
“I think there is a lot of expectations (for me). Obviously last year, I didn’t have a lot of expectations because I had never started before, but I think my biggest goal is to put (any preseason expectations) aside and take it game-by-game.”
What helped you enjoy a successful season last year?
“I think it was confidence. I know for me, as long as I go out there with the mentality that I am going to make the field goal or extra point or I am going to punt well – it usually happens, but like for me it is all about keeping my form. I do watch some of my film to make sure some of my mechanics are the same every time, but honestly it is just like confidence. This summer I worked on (improving) my power by lifting.”
You connected on 10 of 12 field goals last fall. Do you ever think about those two kicks that missed?
“Yeah, both (attempts that missed) hit off the upright, so it’s kind of frustrating that I missed them by inches, but I still need to make those. Obviously, you want to get every kick back, but you can’t think about them too long (because) you have to move onto the next (kick) and make it.”
The MIT-WPI football games seem to come down to field goals or have been decided by three points. And one of those games happened to be the 2016 overtime win over MIT.
“Yeah, when Blaine Bursey made that (19-yard-field goal in overtime) to beat MIT, I was there for it. I thought it was cool, but it is kind of funny (how the games have been decided by three points the past few years). Last year it didn’t come down to me. There wasn’t that much pressure (on me) because I kicked a field goal (before they came back). I don’t think I really had too many pressure kicks (last fall).”
Do you enjoy being a part the MIT-WPI rivalry?
“I think MIT and RPI – well, I guess there is something a little bit more with RPI because of the (transit trophy), but all three schools’ mascots are the Engineers, so there is a little bit of a rivalry there (with MIT, as well). But I think everybody goes into every game with the same mentality, but maybe just a little bit more juice with those games.”
Do you think special teams gets overlooked when offenses or defenses makes big plays?
“(Special teams) is a part of the game that needs to be there because games are won through special teams. Whether it is a mistake on special teams or whether it is winning a game with special teams, games can be won or lost through special teams, but I think (the kicking game) can be overlooked by fans. It is certainly not overlooked by coaches or players because they understand how much special teams means to winning games and being competitive in games.”
Do you have an all-time favorite kicker? If so, who?
“Robbie Gould, who is currently with the San Francisco 49ers. He’s been in the league a longtime and he is so consistent. When he played for the Chicago Bears, I went to his camp and met him, and he is just so consistent and may not have the biggest leg – I don’t have the biggest leg either. He is someone that I try to base my game off of and that is what the coaches are looking for, which is me making field goals.”
When you went to Robbie Gould’s camp, what advice did he give you as a young kicker?
“I asked him how he has stayed in the league so long and he said the biggest thing for him is that he doesn’t kick that often during practices. He said that he kicks roughly 10 to 20 balls each day and then does an ice bath followed by lots of resting and recovery. He (also) said that as long as he is doing (this routine) then he will be fine.”
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