Matt Vautour: Impressions on UMass’ season opening loss to Boston College

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Fans dreaming of an instantaneous turnaround for the UMass football team under Mark Whipple left Gillette Stadium disappointed following a 30-7 season opening loss to Boston College. The Minutemen were too often overmatched by their in-state would-be rivals and have some work to do as the season goes forward.

Some impressions from UMass after week one:

■ Whipple seemed more frustrated at the start of his press conference than he was by the end of it. Whether it was a concerted effort to be positive or reflecting about the game made him feel better about it, his comments seemed more confident by the end.

“I’m excited about this team. I said I thought I’d know a lot more about this team at 6:04 p.m. and I do,” he said at the end. “We’ll go back to practice tomorrow night and we’ll have a great week and go forward. We’ll be ready to go. ... I really think we’ll be a lot better next week seeing us on tape and how we match up.”

The switch was particularly evident with quarterback Blake Frophnapfel, who struggled completing just 9-of-22 passes for 147 yards, numbers that look worse without one good throw, a 77-yard touchdown pass to Tajae Sharpe. Whipple criticized him earlier in the press conference pointing to his missed throws and said “their quarterback was better than ours.” But he expressed confidence in the junior transfer from Marshall going forward.

“I think Blake is going to be a lot better. He’ll just get better and better. I have all the confidence in the world,” Whipple said. “We just missed some throws. He threw the ball where we wanted it. On one play he didn’t, but that will come. I’m pleased where we are at quarterback.”

■ Frohnapfel and his receivers aren’t entirely in sync yet. Part of it might have been that he was forced to throw the ball in a hurry a few times, but he overthrew his receivers on numerous occasions, especially early in the game. His accountability after the loss will likely play well with his teammates.

“It’s a game of inches. There’s a couple throws here and there that we missed, that I missed,” he said. “We need to work it out and get the timing down in practice. You can’t miss stuff like that against a team like that.”

■ Big offensive lines and or mobile quarterbacks could create trouble for the Minutemen this year. UMass’ young defensive line was overmatched by BC’s experienced and talented line. On top of that, UMass couldn’t contain dual-threat Tyler Murphy. When he did drop back to pass, the defensive backfield did a good job of covering his receivers, but he often opted to run and still got big chunks of yardage.

The Minutemen didn’t force a single three-and-out and didn’t even force a punt until starters were out in the fourth quarter.

■ True freshman J.T. Blyden could be the Minutemen’s starting running back quickly. He looked better than junior Jamal Wilson and he seems to have passed Lorenzo Woodley in the minds of the coaching staff. He’s the fastest running back UMass has and he looked comfortable against a good opponent.

■ Junior Joey Colton, who was a walk-on two years ago, continued to be key piece of the defense with a career-high 13 tackles. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him named captain either later this year or next year.

■ Senior Brian McDonald looked solid in his first start as the Minuteman punter averaging 42.2 yards per kick.

■ The MAC doesn’t look great so far. East favorite Bowling Green lost to lightly regarded Western Kentucky, 59-31, Thursday. West favorite Toledo struggled early with New Hampshire but won 54-20, and Buffalo barely beat nonscholarship Duquesne, 38-28, after being down late. If Whipple is right and the Minutemen do get better, there are winnable games in the league.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage