Quarterback competition ongoing for Minutemen

Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Heading into the game, University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar said that true freshman quarterback A.J. Doyle would see action this season and that no effort would be made to protect his redshirt.

So it wasn't surprising when Doyle entered in the fourth quarter of UMass' 37-0 loss to Connecticut with the game well out of reach.

But after starter Mike Wegzyn struggled completing 9-of-22 passes for 56 yards and two interceptions, Molnar said nobody's playing time was assured going forward.

"Some of it was definitely from UConn winning the matchup against our o-line. But a lot of the pressure was self-inflicted wounds by Mike. He didn't pull the trigger fast enough. He had guys open and got stuck on the peg a few times," Molnar said. "A.J. Doyle is going to play this year and he's going to play a lot. Mike Wegzyn's job isn't locked up and sewn away for the next several years. There's going to be competition each and every day and I thought this was a great chance to get a rookie into a game. The heat was off by the time he got in the game. I wanted to get him in and get some baptism under fire. I hope he'll benefit from it. Each and every game I hope to get him in, win, lose or draw."

Doyle's only pass attempt was incomplete.

Wegzyn said the Minutemen have to make tonight valuable.

"We have a lot of things to correct. Hopefully we can come back (Friday), watch the film and correct what we need to and do a better job next week," he said. "I just have to swallow my pride, look at what I did wrong and make sure it doesn't happen again. This wasn't what we planned, what we wanted. We have to build on this game.

UMass hosts Indiana at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 8.

RARE HIGHLIGHT - There weren't many highlights for the Minutemen, but senior safety Darren Thellen made one first-quarter play that is certain to make UMass' postseason highlight reel.

On third-and-11 from the Minuteman 31-yard line, UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer rolled right. With no open receivers, he tried to loft the ball out of bounds. But Thellen took off from in-bounds at the 12-yard line. If he'd caught it, he would have landed out of bounds. So like a basketball player trying to save a possession, Thellen alertly batted it toward linebacker Tim Brandt, who caught it for the interception.

"It was lucky," Thellen said. "I wanted to get the pick and I knew I couldn't make it. I saw one of my teammates close and I tried to throw it to him. Fortunately he caught it and made a play."

Molnar wasn't surprised.

"Darren Thellen is a play maker. I wish we had 105 Darren Thellens. We'd never lose a game."

BIRT HURT - Junior safety Christan Birt was a late scratch with an undisclosed injury. Ed Saint Vil started in his place. Saint-Vil left the game with a leg injury but later returned.

MISCELLANEOUS - UMass was shutout for the first time since Sept. 30, 1995, a span of 199 games. ... Jeff Strait kicked a career-high nine punts for 378 yards. Freshman Colter Johnson had one punt for 40 yards. ... Antoine Tharpe's interception was the first of his career. ... Seventeen Minutemen saw action for the first time at UMass, including 14 freshmen and three transfers.

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.