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UMass football aims for strong finish to season

Realistic University of Massachusetts football fans have been looking forward to this week since the start of the season.

Beginning Bowl Subdivision play after finishing 5-6 last year in the Championship Subdivision made it pretty obvious that UMass would take its lumps this season against the better teams on its very front-loaded schedule. So its 0-9 record shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

On paper, the three worst teams the Minutemen will play in their first season in the Mid-American Conference, are the last three, starting Saturday at 2 p.m. at Akron.

After facing the Zips (1-9, 0-6 MAC), who earned their lone win against FCS Morgan State, UMass returns home for games against Buffalo (2-7, 1-4) and Central Michigan (3-6, 1-4).

“It’s three teams that haven’t found their identity yet. Each one of us would like to feel like we’re getting closer and closer every day, but the reality of it is at the end of each of these games, one of us won’t be as close as we’d like to be,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “All three of us are looking at these games as opportunities to win. All three of us see teams in similar situations knowing that all of us probably have more fragile confidence.”

Akron coach Terry Bowden acknowledged the teams were in similar places.

“I have a feeling UMass has us circled on their calendar too,” Bowden said. “Our seniors want to win. There’s been a lot of crying going on in that locker room. Unlike in baseball, there is crying in football I guess, in the locker room.”

Molnar agreed.

“Both teams are looking at this as an opportunity to kinda get the ship righted. We’ll see Saturday afternoon, who is closer to that point,” Molnar said. “Both of us are unsteady at this point. It’s like boxing. You’re wobbly but you’re boxing against a guy who is a little wobbly. You feel a lot better than going against who we just went against who has their feet firmly set on ground with their fists up ready to come at you.”

Bowden understands what UMass is going through.

“I can definitely empathize, this being their first year coming into I-A and their first year in this conference,” he said. “They scheduled no I-AA teams and they played four nonconference games that a lot of teams in this league could have gone 0-4 against.”

UMASS HEALTH — Sophomore running back Jordan Broadnax (upper body) returned to practice at full speed and is expected to play Saturday.

Ed Saint Vil (leg) also returned.

“He practiced today and I imagine he’ll play on Saturday,” Molnar said. “He was better today than he’s been.”

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jamie Casselberry (concussion) is unlikely to play, while true freshman guard Al Leneus (illness, undisclosed injury) is questionable.

Molnar also confirmed that true freshman running back Stacy Bedell (leg) will apply for a medical redshirt after not healing quickly enough to return.

“I wanted to see him get more action this year. At the end of the day it’s not the worst thing in the world for him,” Molnar said.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Texas A&M at Alabama, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CBS — If this game were in College Station, texas, instead of Tuscaloosa, Ala., it might have had upset potential. Regardless, the Aggies have made a seamless transition in the SEC.

MAC GAME OF THE WEEK: Bowling Green at Ohio, Wednesday, 7 p.m. ESPN2 — As the MAC starts playing midweek games, the stakes appear to be going up. Both the Falcons and Bobcats are 4-1 in the East Division and trying to keep pace with Kent State (5-0).

MAC IN POLLS — Toledo cracked the top 25 landing at No. 23 in the AP Poll, No. 25 in the coaches poll and No. 25 in the BCS. Northern Illinois is the first team in the also-receiving votes section of both polls. Kent State and Ohio University also received votes in both polls.

Information from personal interviews, newspaper articles and sports information releases was used in this report.

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

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