The Massachusetts Minutemen will be eager to secure their first win of the season when they host the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides of the ball
Coastal Carolina’s 2-1 start to the 2019 campaign includes a 12-7 road upset of Kansas on Sept. 7. That was preceded by a loss to Eastern Michigan and followed by a 46-7 rout of Norfolk State. In other words, all systems go for the Chanticleers since their season-opening setback against the Eagles. They have been led in part by the running game, which features C.J. Marable–who leads the team in both rushing and receiving at 99.3 rushing yards and 38.6 receiving yards per game. Utilizing an option-heavy offensive, Coastal Carolina’s scheme presents a large challenge to young, inexperienced defenses such as that of Massachusetts.
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“Where we are as a roster right now, we’re really thin especially defensively,” Massachusetts head coach Walt Bell lamented. “But we’ve got to tackle. That’ll be a skill that will carry us through the rest of the program. They’re going to make us play to our assignments,” said Bell. “Play with great assignment discipline, and more than anything else, put pressure on our perimeter players to tackle well in space…. [The option offense] puts not only a lot of pressure on you physically, but a lot of pressure mentally. Somebody’s always got to have the dive, somebody’s always got to have the quarterback. You’ve got to have somebody on the perimeter to crack the play. They’re just going to put a lot of pressure on us.”
As for the Coastal defense, it may be even better than the offense. New d-coordinator Chad Staggs has to like where his unit is at through three contests–top 10 nationally, to be exact. The Chanticleers, who have switched to more of a 3-4 scheme under Staggs with three down linemen from a 4-3 last season, have yet to allow 300 yards of offense to any opponent. They are No. 1 in the Sun Belt Conference and seventh in the nation with 229.3 yards allowed per game, improving to sixth nationally with 123.3 passing yards against and 39th with 106 rushing yards against.
Running to rebuild
Massachusetts, on the other hand, is off to an 0-3 start in the Walt Bell era. But the first-year head coach has one bright spot on his hands: the running game. You can be sure the Minutemen will give a heavy workload to Bilal Ally and fellow backfield members Cam Roberson and Kevin Brown when Coastal Carolina comes to town. Ally, whose family moved from New Orleans to Jacksonville, Fla. in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has been turning heads. The redshirt junior has already surpassed his totals from last season when he had 25 rushes for 139 yards and a touchdown in four games. This year, he opened with an 11-carry, 68-yard performance against Rutgers and has not looked back. He leads the Minutemen through three games with 41 attempts for 214 yards and one touchdown. Roberson, a converted receiver, has 31 carries for 149 yards. Brown, the newcomer of the trio, has contributed 69 yards and a score on 17 carries. Running backs coach Fredi Knighten is without question satisfied with his group’s effort so far.
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“Bilal has done a great job so far,” Knighten assured. “Ally is one of those guys who is always trying to figure out the game, not only running the ball but in the pass protection aspect of the game, as well. He really plays hard. Cam gives us the dynamic part. He was a receiver before so we can split him out wide. He brings an electricity to the locker room. He’s sort of a jokester that way. But, once he steps on the field, he’s all business. You can see it on the field. And Kevin brings the physical part of it that we love. The biggest thing for Kevin, as a freshman, is that right now, he might not be ‘the guy.’ It all comes down to how does he accept that challenge. Our job, as coaches, is to help them and try to get them up to that proper level of consistency and playing hard.”
The UMass defense stinks, however. After watching game film against Charlotte (a 52-187 loss), Bell counted an absurd 29 tackles, which helped the 49ers average 8.5 yards per carry. Missed tackles also contributed to two of Charlotte’s longest plays of the game, a Cameron Dollar 46-yard touchdown reception and an Aaron McCallister 69-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are:
- 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games
- 5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games
- 6-1 ATS in their last seven games on fieldturf
The Massachusetts Minutemen are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five overall
- 1-4 ATS in their last five home games
- 3-9 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games