UMass seeking to spoil Central Michigan’s bowl hopes

Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013
AMHREST — The University of Massachusetts football team has been in position to pick up its second victory a couple times this year.

Against Akron a week ago, UMass held a 13-7 lead after three quarters only to lose by a single point. The Minutemen battled back against Western Michigan on Oct 26, coming within a 2-point conversion of winning.

With two games left, beginning Saturday at Central Michigan, UMass is still looking to clear that hurdle.

“Two out of our last three games we didn’t close out,” Minutemen coach Charley Molnar said. “So our team has to learn how to finish. That’s part of our maturation process, is learning how to finish close games and come out on the positive side of it.”

Central Michigan needs to win its two remaining games to become bowl eligible, something UMass safety Joe Colton said the coaching staff reminded them about this week.

“I mean, at this point, we just have one win,” Colton said. “We’d take any game. And if (playing the role of spoiler) is going to lead some guys to motivation, good, the more motivation the better.”

UMass and Central Michigan played under similar circumstances last season, with the Chippewas needing the win to earn a bowl berth. It was a high-stakes game then and will carry the same type of pressure Saturday.

The Minutemen could benefit from some consistency at quarterback. Starter A.J. Doyle’s battled injuries throughout most of the season and the team’s had to juggle snaps between Doyle and backup Mike Wegzyn. Doyle’s thrown for just 1,120 yards this season with five touchdowns and six interceptions.

“Obviously, I’d like to be at full health but you know, it’s football, it’s going to happen,” said Doyle, who will start Saturday. “You’re going to get hurt, you’re going to get injured, you just have to play through it.”

Time & Location: 1 p.m., Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Records: UMass (1-9, 1-5 MAC); Central Michigan (4-6, 3-3)

Previous Meeting: 2012, Central Michigan defeated UMass, 42-21

All-time series: Central Michigan leads 1-0

Internet: ESPN3.com; weei.com/umass

Radio: 105.5-FM (WEEI)

When UMass has the ball: With Doyle ready to play, the Minutemen at least have some continuity at quarterback. How long that lasts remains to be seen. Central Michigan has allowed 33.3 points per game and 4.9 yards per rush, which bodes well for running backs Lorenzo Woodley and Jamal Wilson. The pair combined for 101 yards a week ago and have become the focal point of the offense.

When Central Michigan has the ball: Star running back Zurlon Tipton returns from a broken ankle this week. A year ago, Tipton scored four times against the Minutemen and single-handedly broke the game open in the second half. He’s a player to keep an eye on as UMass has struggled this season to stop the run. Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush has completed just 56 percent of his passes this year, throwing for 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

UMass has made improvements this season defensively. The Minutemen have allowed just 213.6 yards passing per game.

“If the defense holds it down we’ll be good,” Colton said. “Everybody do their job and when it gets down to the end of the game, that’s when the pressure comes in. Guys got to be able to perform under pressure.”