Byline: Jennifer Toland
COLUMN: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore thought John Griffin was a good player last year when the Crusaders saw him at Northeastern. Griffin, the former Oakmont Regional High running back who is now at UMass, will present the Crusaders' defense with a whole new challenge tomorrow night at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst.
"I don't think last year he had the supporting cast he has at UMass now," Gilmore said. "Now, with a bigger, better offensive line and more weapons across the board, it's hard to just focus on him, and that's opened up some things for him. He looks really good."
Griffin, a senior, transferred to UMass after Northeastern dropped football at the end of 2009. He had a terrific debut for the Minutemen, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-23 upset of then-No. 4 William & Mary last Saturday.
"It felt good to win, especially a big game like that," Griffin said after Wednesday's practice. "Coming here, I expected to be able to win games like that, so for us to live up to it was huge in my mind. It was good to be back on the field. I felt like I was part of a winning team. Everything felt right."
Griffin was a 2009 All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection. He rushed for 87 yards against Holy Cross last year.
Griffin, whose family lives in Westminster, enrolled at UMass in January, so he has had time to adjust to his new school. It took some time to learn a new offense, but he's obviously adapting well.
"He had a real strong opening-day performance," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "He brings great speed to the offense."
Griffin joins another Central Mass. product, junior Jonathan Hernandez of Leominster, in the Minuteman backfield. Hernandez, the CAA Offensive Player of the Week, rushed for 132 yards against William & Mary and had a key 64-yard catch and run on a fourth-quarter screen play.
"They are a great 1-2 punch," Gilmore said. "It's really hard to defend. It appears that they really want to run the football. They don't want to just establish the run. They're going to run the football and force you to defend that."
Against William & Mary, the Minutemen rushed 52 times while quarterback Kyle Havens attempted 24 passes. The yardage (215 rushing, 223 passing) was almost even.
Holy Cross held Howard University to a 2.7-yard rushing average in last week's season-opening win.
"Their base run scheme we defended very well," Gilmore said.
Hernandez, who set a school...