Quarterback competition back on for UMass

  • University of Massachusetts redshirt senior quarterback Randall West (13) hands off to junior wide receiver Cam Roberson in the first quarter of the Minutemen's 45-20 loss to Southern Illinois at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts redshirt senior quarterback Randall West, center, sets up in a pocket held in part by redshirt sophomore lineman Brian Abosi, left, in the second quarter of the Minutemen's 45-20 loss to Southern Illinois at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2019 9:06:28 PM

AMHERST — Once again the dreaded “or” returned to the UMass quarterback depth chart.

Walt Bell pulled redshirt senior Randall West early in the second half Saturday against Southern Illinois in favor of junior Andrew Brito, and now the two of them will battle it out to start this week against Charlotte.

“We’re going to let them go out and compete, go have a great week,” said an abnormally succinct Bell after Tuesday’s practice. “Whoever has the best week, plays.”

Brito and West have both had their share of highlights and lowlights through the opening two weeks.

West has started twice and looked comfortable in the first half of both games. He led three consecutive scoring drives to open the loss at Rutgers and drove UMass into the red zone on the first two possessions against Southern Illinois. But he threw an interception in both games and missed some throws to open targets down the field that would have been the type of explosive plays to jumpstart the offense.

Brito came in for mop-up duty at Rutgers and looked a little nervous in his first appearance, completing just 2 of 6 attempts with an interception into coverage. Yet he responded well in the second half against Southern Illinois, leading a 13-play, 81-yard scoring drive with poise.

Now the coaches are asking for consistency from their signal-callers and hopeful a competition will help bring that about.

“We just have to be cleaner,” quarterbacks coach Angelo Mirando said. “Cleaner in our decision making. We just need to be better across the board and keep plugging ahead.”

The potential peril of having another open competition after just two weeks is that the quarterbacks will be constantly looking over their shoulder while they’re playing because they know they have a short leash. Neither Bell nor Mirando said they were concerned about that perception, saying the quarterbacks just need to go out and play and execute like the coaches know they can.

And both of them are hoping this competition is what ultimately gives UMass a consistent face in the huddle to lead the offense.

“I’m hoping someone goes out, plays well and wins the job,” Bell said.

FLUSH IT — This past weekend did not live up to the adage that things are never as bad as they seem in Bell’s eye.

He was critical of his team’s effort in the loss to Southern Illinois and didn’t think there were any positives his team could take from the game other than the lesson it taught the team. He didn’t say if there was any carryover from the loss into Tuesday’s practice, but made sure to note that he doesn’t want his team to forget the setback, either.

“That goes two ways,” Bell said. “I hope it hurts, I hope it stings, I hope the lesson is learned, but we’ve got to put that in the back of the memory bank, in the back of the net where it hurts and go get better.”

‘BRING THE JUICE’ — Those are the three words West used to describe how the Minutemen could respond after the uninspiring loss Saturday.

He said it’s important UMass comes to practice ready to work each day and be prepared to put in the energy and effort required to execute each day’s workload. West said that message has been echoed by Bell and the rest of the coaches in the wake of the defeat.

“We need to utilize each day and focus on preparing for the opponent each day and maximizing the time that we have on the practice field,” West said. “We need those looks, we need that time and we need those details in order to be successful on Saturdays.”

Although West didn’t specifically say that he thought UMass was unprepared for Southern Illinois, he made several mentions to how important preparation is to winning on Saturday.

“It’s all about how we prepare. If we prepare well and we practice well and we come out here with energy and focus ready to do our jobs,” West said, “then we’ll be in position to do well on Saturday. If we don’t, then we’re at an extreme disadvantage and personally, I don’t believe we should ever be in that position.”

RETURN OF THE MAC — Yet another MAC opponent has made its way onto a future UMass schedule.

FBSchedules.com reported Tuesday that the Minutemen have agreed to a home-and-home deal with Bowling Green for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. UMass will host the Falcons on Oct. 4, 2025 before returning the trip to Ohio on Oct. 3, 2026.

Bowling Green is the eighth MAC school the Minutemen have scheduled since leaving the conference and becoming an independent in 2016.

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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