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UMass returns to football following controversial bye week

Massachusetts quarterback A.J. Doyle (15) throws a pass as Vanderbilt defensive tackles Barron Dixon (44) and Jared Morse (97) close in during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts quarterback A.J. Doyle (15) throws a pass as Vanderbilt defensive tackles Barron Dixon (44) and Jared Morse (97) close in during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts football team returned to a normal practice schedule Monday, taking the field after a less-than-quiet bye week.

Last week, the Gazette reported about an online petition, signed by UMass football alumni. The petition called for the coaching staff, specifically head coach Charley Molnar, to stop the improper treatment of players and to improve the quality of the program. The petition also contained a link to a controversial YouTube video that showed UMass players participating in offseason wrestling and boxing matches.

For Molnar, his message to his team was concise.

“I told them when the story comes out, you read it and you be the judge yourself,” Molnar said. “Guys that were here, they know what went on. Players that weren’t here, hopefully guys that were passed it along and told them what went on.”

Molnar deemed the timing of the story convenient.

“I was glad it wasn’t during a game week because just the amount of time I had to expend on it,” Molnar said. “If we had a game it really would’ve taken away from our preparations.”

Quarterback A.J. Doyle said the team paid little attention to the controversy.

“Honestly, no one really paid attention to it because we can’t,” Doyle said. “We can’t do anything about it, all we can do is focus on Bowling Green and get ready for the game.”

The bye week allowed the Minutemen to rest starters. Backups took reps from veterans as UMass prepares for conference play.

“They’ve worked hard, (the veterans) really were off their legs a lot last week,” Molnar said. “We had good fresh legs, good tempo during practice.”

Fifth-year senior defensive end Justin Anderson was one of the beneficiaries of the time off.

“The older guys on the team were able to recover,” Anderson said. “We got a chance to get the younger guys scrimmaging each other and practicing hard, getting them ready. I’m thankful we had that break.”

The Minutemen implemented a 4-3 defense for Vanderbilt and have continued to work with the new formation.

“I believe the formation change really helped us out, having four defensive linemen versus three,” Anderson said. “To have a defensive end line up on the tight end, I believe that really helped us a lot.”

With added confidence in a new scheme, the defense may add more complex looks to stop a potent Bowling Green offense.

“You can expect a surprise from (defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian) every week,” Anderson said. “I can’t say it right now, but I’m pretty sure there’s gonna be something (Elmassian) will throw at them.”

LENDING A HAND — After practice, Anderson took extra time to work with some of the younger defensive linemen, including freshman Peter Angeh. Molnar said Angeh was a player he hoped would step up this weekend.

Angeh “just needs to continue to improve so we can up his reps in the game on Saturday,” Molnar said.

Anderson values his role as a mentor on a team.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been in college for five years so I feel like I have a little bit of wisdom,” Anderson said.

Injury update —UMass lost Stacey Bedell and Lorenzo Woodley to injuries against Vanderbilt. Both returned to practice Monday. Jamal Wilson, who filled in against Vandy, could still see time against Bowling Green.

“Against Vanderbilt, (Wilson) got thrown into the fire,” Molnar said. “He was ready mentally and from a preparation standpoint, but now he knows the same thing can happen to him again.”

Wide receiver Shakur Nesmith, who missed the last three games with an arm injury, returned in a limit capacity.

Running back Jordan Broadnax and linebacker Steve Casali did not practice.

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