UMass 31, Holy Cross 7

UMass takes care of business

Up next, big game in the Big House

By Marty Dobrow
Globe Correspondent / September 12, 2010

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AMHERST — There was no need for University of Massachusetts coach Kevin Morris to summon an inspirational halftime speech. No riveting oratory about the Gipper. No emotional appeals to dig deep. No impassioned challenges about overcoming adversity.

All that was required was a gentle reminder to avoid complacency and to stay healthy. Truth was, this one was well in hand.

Riding a 31-0 first-half blitz, the Minutemen rolled to a 31-7 victory over Holy Cross before 16,352 fans at McGuirk Stadium last night.

The 2-0 Minutemen can now plunge into next week’s monumental challenge, traveling to Ann Arbor to take on the Michigan Wolverines in UMass’s annual clash with an FBS opponent.

“Now it is game week,’’ said Morris. “We’re not looking ahead. This is it.’’

Michigan (2-0) won a dramatic game at Notre Dame yesterday. The Wolverines are apt to equal the 113,090 fans they drew two weeks ago against UConn in a college football attendance record set at their newly expanded stadium. That is well over twice the largest crowd ever to see a UMass sporting event.

“It’s not going to take much from me [to motivate the team],’’ said Morris. “They’re well aware of the opportunity. Everyone knows Michigan, traditionally one of the best programs in the country, year in and year out. Hey, we’ve got to play our game and not get over-impressed with who Michigan is and the venue and the 110,000 people dancing around.’’

Last night, UMass seemed to have a lopsided advantage right from the coin toss. The Minutemen sent out former basketball star and current Portland Trail Blazer Marcus Camby (in town to be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame).

By the time the marching band took the field, it was abundantly clear the Minutemen wouldn’t yield. Their 31-0 lead was built on a dominant 358-69 advantage in total yards.

Quarterback Kyle Havens (25 of 38 for 293 yards and two touchdowns) did most of his damage before intermission, including TD passes to Dan Sheeran and Rob Blanchflower. The tailback tandem of John Griffin (18 carries, 75 yards) and Jonathan Hernandez (15-71) contributed 1-yard touchdown runs. Kicker Caleb Violette added a 37-yard field goal for good measure on the half’s final play.

The domination was more than just on the scoreboard and in the packet of statistics. UMass took it to Holy Cross with a number of demoralizing plays. One was a successful onside kick late in the first quarter after UMass had already built a 14-0 lead. Another came midway through the second quarter at 21-0, on fourth and 1 from the Holy Cross 6-yard line. Havens came to the line of scrimmage, barked out signals, and drew Crusaders lineman Mude Ohimor offside with the quick cadence. On the next play, Havens hit Blanchflower for the score to make it 28-0.

UMass also dominated on the defensive side of the ball, led by Tyler Holmes, a junior linebacker and cocaptain. Holmes came up with a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception — his second of the young season.

“He’s always in the right place at the right time,’’ said Havens. “We know he’s going to come up with something big for us.’’

“I was not surprised at the level of [UMass],” said Tom Gilmore, coach of the 1-1 Crusaders. “Not only their talent level, but the way they play. And they went out and did it again.

“We didn’t go out and play to our ability, which was really disappointing to me. We didn’t do anything real well. We weren’t playing that hard. I’m extremely disappointed right now.’’

Holy Cross did manage to make things marginally respectable in the second half, largely on special teams. The Crusaders blocked a pair of punts. They got their one score late in the third quarter when Ryan Taggart (17 of 32 for 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception) hit Freddie Santana from 20 yards.

The Crusaders travel to Harvard Saturday, while UMass makes its big trip to the Big House.