CFN Take: UMass Bombed By Buffalo

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 28, 2014


The 2014 Massachusetts Minutemen - Head Coach: Mark Whipple

UMass Minutemen

2014 Schedule
Record: 3-9

Aug. 30 Boston College L 30-7
Sep. 6 Colorado L 41-38
Sep. 13 at Vanderbilt L 34-31
Sep. 20 at Penn State L 48-7
Sep. 27 Bowling Green L 47-42
Oct. 4 at Miami Univ. L 42-41
Oct. 11 at Kent State W 40-17
Oct. 18 Eastern Mich W 36-14
Oct. 25 at Toledo L 42-25
Nov. 5 OPEN DATE
Nov. 12 Ball State W 24-10
Nov. 18 at Akron L 30-6
Nov. 28 Buffalo L 41-21
Nov. 28 Buffalo 41, at Massachusetts 21
And You Care Because … Buffalo jumped out to a 20-0 lead on three Joe Licata touchdown passes including a 28-yarder to Devon Hughes, who caught a second touchdown pass in the third on the way to a 34-7 lead. UMass got on the board with a 50-yard Marken Michel run, and scored twice in the fourth quarter on Tajae Sharpe touchdown catches from seven and 24 yards out, but a 76-yard Anthone Taylor touchdown dash kept the Bulls well ahead.
What Else? Time of possession: Buffalo 35:05 – UMass 24:55
- Buffalo RB Anthone Taylor ran 36 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and caught three passes for 31 yards
- Buffalo QB Joe Licata completed 20-of-27 passes for 255 yards and four scores
- UMass RB Shadrach Abrokwah ran 15 times for 100 yards
Game Rating: C-

Nov. 18 at Akron 30, Massachusetts 6
And You Care Because … Akron got up 20-0 at halftime with two Kyle Pohl touchdown passes and two Robert Stein field goals before UMass got on the board with a one-yard Jean Sifrin touchdown catch. That was it for the Minutemen offense without starting QB Blake Frohnapfel – Akron scored the last ten points starting with a 12-yard Conor Hundley run and finishing with Stein’s third field goal.
What Else? Akron QB Kyle Pohl completed 26-of-39 passes for 277 yards and two scores
- UMass QB Austin Whipple completed 12-of-20 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown with three picks
- Akron WR Zach D’Orazio caught ten passes for 121 yards
- Time of possession: Akron 34:16 – UMass 24:38
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 25 at Toledo 42, Massachusetts 35
And You Care Because … Toledo got a 19-yard touchdown run from Terry Swanson with just 34 seconds to play to put away a game UMass. Blake Frohnapfel threw five touchdown passes for the Minutemen including a 36-yarder to Tajae Sharpe and a 76-yard play to Jean Sifrin in the fourth. UMass got up 13-0 on first quarter touchdown catches from Jalen Williams from 15 and 35 yards out, but Toledo came back from down 20-7 on a 42-yard Corey Jones catch and a 36-yard Kareem Hunt run for the lead. In a wild fourth quarter, the two traded big play after big play, but Toledo had the ball last.
What Else? Total yards: Toledo 520 – UMass 497
- Massachusetts QB Blake Frohnapfel completed 28-of-55 passes for 438 yards and five touchdowns with two picks
- Toledo RB Kareem Hunt ran 26 times for 198 yards and a touchdown, and Terry Swanson ran 18 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns
- Massachusetts WR Jean Sifrin caught six passes for 185 yards and a score, Jean Williams caught six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A

Oct. 18 at Massachusetts 36, Eastern Michigan 14
And You Care Because … Shadrach Abrokwah ran for scores from 17, 16, and two from four yards out as UMass relied on the ground game to put away EMU. The Minutemen scored 16 unanswered points and the defense did the rest after allowing Reginald Ball’s second touchdown pass of the game in the second quarter. EMU couldn’t slow down the UMass offensive balance.
What Else? UMass RB Shadrach Abrokwah ran 24 times for 135 yards and four touchdowns
- Eastern Michigan QB Reginald Bell completed 10-of-21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
- UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel completed 28-of-51 passes for 337 yards with an interception
- Penalties: Eastern Michigan 10 for 92 yards – UMass 9 for 55 yards
Game Rating: C-

Oct. 11 Massachusetts 40, at Kent State 17
And You Care Because … The Minutemen blew up with 17 straight points in the first half as Blake Frohnapfel threw two of his three touchdown passes on the way to a 24-10 halftime lead. Kent State made it close in the third quarter on a five-yard Josh Boyle scoring grab, but it was all UMass the rest of the way with 17 unanswered points highlighted by a 34-yard interception return for a score from Jackson Porter.
What Else? UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel completed 32-of-38 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns
- Kent State QB Colin Reardon completed 22-of-41 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and led the team with 53 rushing yards on three carries
- UMass RB Lorenzo Woodley ran 23 times for 160 yards and a score
- Penalties: UMass 10 for 105 yards – Kent State 6 for 80 yards
Game Rating: C-

Oct. 4 at Miami University 42, UMass 41
And You Care Because … Down 27, Miami roared with 28 straight points with Andrew Hendrix running for a one-yard score and finding Sam Martin for two of his four touchdown catches in the comeback, but UMass drove deep into MU territory in the final moments, didn’t go for the field goal, and time ran out as the drive stalled on the MU two. Blake Frohnapfel threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers for the Minutemen, and Khary Bailey-Smith returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but Hendrix was unstoppable from late in the first half on, and the RedHawk defense came up with four key takeaways.
What Else? Total yards: Miami University 557 – Massachusetts 554
- Miami University QB Andrew Hendrix completed 32-of-58 passes for 437 yards and four touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 91 yards and a score
- UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel completed 35-of-59 passes for 389 yards and four scores. Tajae Sharpe caught nine passes for 154 yards
- Miami University WR Sam Martin caught eight passes for 111 yards and four scores, and Rokeem Williams caught six passes for 133 yards
Game Rating: A

Sept. 27 Bowling Green 47, at Massachusetts 42
And You Care Because … In a wild and crazy game with over 1,300 yards of total offense, Bowling Green’s James Knapke threw three touchdown passes and Travis Greene ran for two scores including a 25-yarder in the fourth to take the lead and a 22-yard dash from Ronnie Moore to go up 12, but UMass wouldn’t go away. UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel threw for 589 yards and five touchdown passes including a five yard play to Tajae Sharpe with just over three minutes to play to pull within five. The Minutemen had one last shot, but fumbled it away and the Falcons ran out the clock.
What Else? Total yards: Bowling Green 668 – UMass 638
- Penalties: Bowling Green 13 for 112 yards – UMass 4 for 30 yards. Turnovers: UMass 4 – Bowling Green 3
- UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel completed 36-of-61 passes for 589 yards and five touchdowns with a pick, and BGSU QB James Knapke completed 38-of-59 passes for 443 yards and three touchdowns with three picks.
- Receivers: BGSU’s Ryan Burbrink caught 11 passes for 132 yards and a score, Roger LewIs caught nine passes for 148 yards and a score, Ronnie Moore caught nine passes for 109 yards and a score. UMass’s Tajae Sharpe caught 13 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and Jean Sifrin caught eight passes for 135 yards
Game Rating: A

Sept. 20 Penn State 48, Massachusetts 7
And You Care Because … For the first time since 2008, Penn State is 4-0, and it didn’t have to sweat a game out for a change. The Nittany Lions got a total team effort, offense, defense and special teams, to coast to their first lopsided victory of 2014. After a slow start, they pulled away with a 28-point second quarter that included two rushing touchdowns apiece from Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton.
What Else? Penn State hammered away at the undersized UMass front wall, rushing for 228 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries. The fifth touchdown came from Akeel Lynch who led the team in rushing.
- UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel landed some blows through the air against the Penn State secondary, but he got zero support from the running game. The Minutemen could only muster three yards on the ground on 28 carries.
- The Penn State front seven was no match for the UMass offensive line. The Nittany Lions lived in the backfield, 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks.
- The Minutemen will build this season around an underrated corps of receivers. Facing a quality group of Penn State pass defenders, Marken Michel and Tajae Sharpe caught 10 balls between them for 203 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: D

Sept. 13 at Vanderbilt 34, Massachusetts 31
And You Care Because … Vanderbilt avoided total disaster with 14 unanswered points getting a three-play drive helped by two C.J. Duncan catches, leading four-yard touchdown run from Ralph Webb with just over a minute to play for the win. UMass had a shot, marching back quickly into field goal range, but Blake Lucas missed a 22-yard field goal in the final seconds. In the comeback, the Vandy special teams got into the act with a blocked punt for a score to pull within five with under nine minutes to play, but the two-point conversion failed to force the late touchdown drive. UMass got out to a 14-0 lead on Rodney Mills touchdown catches from 13 and 53 yards away, and got two Lorenzo Woodley touchdown runs.
What Else? UMass came really, really close to getting two program-changing wins, barely losing to Colorado last week and losing a heartbreaker to Vandy this week. Mark Whipple is doing a brilliant job of making the team more than just competitive.
- Vanderbilt gave ANOTHER quarterback a shot. Wade Freebeck completed one of two passes for three yards with a pick. He was the fourth quarterback the team tried this year.
- Vanderbilt QB Patton Robinette completed 15-of-21 passes for 147 yards and a score, and ran six times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
- UMass outgained Vanderbilt 346 yards to 310.
Game Rating: A-

Sept. 6 Colorado 41, at Massachusetts 38
And You Care Because … Colorado avoided disaster, coming back from a 31-20 deficit with Christian Powell running for a 14-yard score and Nelson Spruce scoring on passes from 70 and three yards out to take the lead for good. But UMass wouldn’t go away, scoring on a six-yard Marken Michel touchdown run late. Blake Frohnapfel found Jean Sifrin on touchdown passes from 12 and 14 yards out to help the Minutemen stay alive, but Colorado and Sefo Liufau kept pressing – he completed 26-of-42 passes for 318 yards and three scores with a pick.
Game Rating: A-

Aug. 30 Boston College 30, at Massachusetts 7
And You Care Because … Welcome to the Tyler Murphy era. The Florida transfer completed 17-of-24 passes for 173 yards and a score with a pick and ran 13 times for a team-high 118 yards and a score. BC got up 20-0, but it wasn’t always easy. Myles Willis ran for a one-yard score and Murphy added a one-yard touchdown run, answered by a 77-yard Tajae Sharpe touchdown catch to make it interesting. Murphy found Josh Bordner from 32 yards on the ensuing drive to put it away.
Game Rating: D+

2014 Preview 

Thanks everyone, it’s been fun.

And just like that, UMass has decided that MAC life just isn’t its cup of tea, joining the conference in 2012, and leaving after the 2015 season to go become an independent, or maybe try to hook up with another conference like the American Athletic for football – while staying with the Atlantic-10 in other sports – but before taking off in two seasons, it would be nice to win a few games.

It’s not like the Minutemen have taken the world by storm, going 1-11 in the first two seasons of MAC life with a win last year of a Miami University team that went winless, and a win two years ago over an Akron squad that went 1-11. The idea was to build from the ground up under Charley Molnar and grow as a program into – maybe – what UConn was able to become. That quickly changed.

Molnar is out, and in comes Mark Whipple, the coach who won the I-AA title in 1998 and went 49-26 in his six years before working as an assistant in the NFL and with the Miami Hurricanes. After missing out on a few head coaching openings, Coach Whip came back to Amherst to try to restore the glory, but it might take a little while before things go back to the days of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Molnar was never able to get the offense going. The Minutemen didn’t generate any push for the ground game, couldn’t throw efficiently, and struggled to put points on the board scoring 14 or fewer in eight games last season and failing to score more than seven six times.

Meanwhile, the defense wasn’t all that bad considering it didn’t get any help from the offense. There were some disasters here and there, and the run D was non-existent, but it wasn’t the reason there were so many problems.

So what can Whipple do to start to turn everything back around?

The defensive back seven should be a strength with almost everyone returning – and it needs to be great with the front four undergoing an overhaul. Offensively, Molnar used a few true freshmen in the backfield last season, and the running game could be could if the line can retool quickly and if the passing attack can provide a little more pop.

The key now will be to not settle into a holding pattern. Can UMass use the next two years to build up for its next phase, or will it keep struggling as it waits to find out what’s next? Whipple has two years to create a buzz.


What to watch for on offense: The running game needs to start working. The offensive line did a great job in pass protection last season, allowing just 16 sacks, but it couldn’t keep defensive fronts out of the backfield and away from making big plays behind the line, allowing 80 tackles for loss and getting destroyed when trying to run the ball. Last year the Minutemen came up with just 1,502 rushing yards and five touchdowns, with two of the scores coming in one game against Western Michigan. On the plus side, the production was a little better as the year went on with five straight games with 100+ yards, but over the last two seasons there has been only one 200-yard outing – a 258-yard, two score day in the loss to Miami University in 2012. With three new starters up front, it could take a little bit before the offense starts to pound.

What to watch for on defense: Get more out of the defensive linemen. Depending on the alignment, the back seven or eight should be fine, but it won’t matter if the line isn’t better. It’s not like the front four was all that fearsome last year, helping to generate just 12 sacks and getting pounded on against the run, but it was full of veterans – all four starters have to be replaced. This year’s line should be bigger, and it needs to use the bulk to hold up with 6-1, 300-pound Robert Kitching and 6-2, 285-pound Daniel Maynes having to play big roles. There has to be some semblance of a pass rush from the outside, but that could come from hybrids like Trey Seals who’ll work more at linebacker.

The team will be far better if … it can score. It’s hard to win when you don’t put points on the board - duh - and the biggest problem has been to just get into a position to put something on the board. The Minutemen were in the red zone a mere 21 times, and considering there wasn’t any explosion to the passing game, scoring was a problem. In the 22 games since joining the MAC, UMass has scored more than 14 points just nine times, and almost all the scores were tied into the red zone. Controlling the ball, controlling the clock, and going on long drives will be a must – the offense has to start moving.

The schedule: There are enough decent chances to hope for a few wins, but it won’t be easy. Assuming there’s no chance UMass is ready to give Boston College, Colorado, Vanderbilt or Penn State much of a challenge in the first four games, it doesn’t get too much easier to start the MAC campaign with defending champ Bowling Green coming to Amherst. Three of the next four games are on the road, but there are winnable dates against Miami University, Kent State and Eastern Michigan. There’s no Northern Illinois from the West, but facing Toledo and Ball State is tough.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Tajae Sharpe. One of the few bright spots for the woeful offense was the 6-2, 185-pound Sharpe, who led the team with 61 catches for 680 yards and four scores. He didn’t come up with many big plays, but he was a big, steady target who came up with 11 catches against Maine and Ohio with 73 yards in the finale. The No. 1 receiver, he leads a veteran group that should be a plus if the quarterback play is sharper.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Stanley Andre. Part linebacker, part defensive lineman, he can play inside or out in the linebacking corps. Last year he got in on just about everything, finishing with a team-leading 111 tackles while doing what he could to get behind the line. Built for the middle, he can hold up against the run, but he has to make more big plays as the leader of the defensive front.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB A.J. Doyle. Or senior QB Blake Frohnapfel, or redshirt freshman QB Todd Stafford. The Minutemen have to get better quarterback play, and while there are several options for the coaching staff to choose from, Doyle is the returning starter after hitting 55% of his passes with six touchdowns, but with 11 picks. He’s big, looks the part and has a good arm, but he has to move the offense. It’ll be a battle throughout the summer and the first part of the season as the coaching staff tries to find someone who can make the attack go.

The season will be a success if … UMass wins three games and is more competitive overall. When you win two games in two years, the bar isn’t set all that high. It’s still going to be tough to challenge the better MAC teams, and forget about any of the non-conference games, but the Minutemen have a shot against Miami University, Eastern Michigan, and Akron. Whipple has to provide hope that there are better days ahead in 2015 and beyond.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Bowing Green. Call this the know-where-you-stand type of litmus test game. Can UMass compete with the defending champions? Bowling Green has won the last two seasons by a combined score of 52-7, and while the Minutemen might not have the talent to pull off the home upset, at 0-4 – most likely – to start the season, it’ll be important to make the MAC opener a game.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Rushing Touchdowns: Opponents 23 – UMass 5
- Touchdowns Scores: Opponents 50 – UMass 15
- Punt Return Average: UMass 12.2 yards – Opponents 5.4 yards

- 2014 UMass Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players