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5 Questions: UMass beat writer Matt Vautour




Matt Vautour does a heck of a job covering the Minutemen for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, so give him a follow, @MattVautourDHG. 


1 - Dan Mullen mentioned in his Monday press conference that based on numbers, UMass is better than its record based on the total scoring differential of -5 points. That's the quantitative perspective; from a qualitative view, having seen so much of them, do you think UMass is better than its record? 


I think in long stretches UMass has played better than it's record. Hawaii, Temple, Old Dominion and even Tennessee until Andrew Ford got hurt, were certainly winnable games. UMass didn't make big plays in tight spots until Saturday's win over App State. So it's capable of being better than it's record, but if you don't make big plays in big spots you don't deserve to win. 


2 - For a team that is 2-6, UMass has been pretty good at creating explosive plays on the ground. To what or whom do we attribute that to?  


Its offensive line has gotten better as the year has progressed. But I think overall the running game hasn't been what they hoped it would be. They've had to rely a lot on the pass which has opened the door for opponents to pass rush effectively. But in some scenarios it's allowed the Minutemen to break off some big runs. 


3 - For the paranoid MSU fans with this on their mind: What did UMass do to come so close to beating Tennessee in Knoxville back in September? 


UMass' defense was at its best in that game. It did a nice job of containing Tennessee's running on first and second downs and putting its unreliable passing game into thirds and long. Until starting quarterback Andrew Ford got knocked out of the game, it looked like the Minutemen might be on their way to an upset. But as MSU fans saw last year, UMass is good at being really competitive with Power 5 schools for a half or three quarters, but hasn't effectively finished it off. 


4 - Defensive lineman Da'Sean Downey was dominant against a rock solid Appalachian State team last week. What stands out about him?  


He's really athletic. UMass has lined him up on the line and at linebacker. Against teams with running or mobile quarterbacks, he's been really effective at neutralizing them. 


5 - UMass has thrown 44.4 percent of its passes this season at either tight end Adam Breneman or wide receiver Andy Isabella. What about those two guys can be competitive against a much improved MSU secondary from a year ago? 


Breneman is a classic tough-matchup tight end because he moves well enough to get open against just about everybody. He's good at catching the ball in traffic and hanging on while absorbing a hit. Isabella is fast. He's a former Ohio high school sprint champion. Teams respect that enough and play off him just enough to give him success underneath. After that he's been effective using his speed to get added yards. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson, and follow Matt at @MattVautourDHG



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