UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel is a game-time decision vs. Akron

Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2014
AMHERST — UMass coach Mark Whipple said quarterback Blake Frohnapfel’s status for Tuesday’s game against Akron won’t be determined until shortly before the 7 p.m. kickoff.

“He’s a little better. Every day he’s gotten a little better moving around. We’ll see what he’s like,” Whipple said. “We won’t risk any further damage to his leg. It’s not bothering him anywhere near as much.”

Zips coach Terry Bowden expected the Minutemen to be formidable regardless of who is under center. Bowden said he was sorry to see Frohnapfel get hurt, but was wary of backup Austin Whipple.

“I wish only the best for that young man (Frohnapfel). He’s an outstanding football player. He sure has paid his dues to get where he is and he’s a phenomenal quarterback,” Bowden said. “But I believe the backup quarterback can run the offense. He’s the coach’s son. He understands football. He’s an outstanding football player. If his turn comes, I’m sure they’ll run their offense. We anticipate whichever quarterback they use it will be the same offense.”

This is essentially a playoff game for Akron. After opening the season 4-2, including an upset win over Pittsburgh, the Zips dropped four straight to Ohio, Ball State, Bowling Green and Buffalo. They need to beat UMass and Kent State to get to 6-6, the lowest threshold for bowl eligibility.

“This team is shooting for bowl eligibility and it can’t happen unless we come out and play well against a UMass team that maybe played their best game last week,” Bowden said.

Time & location: 7 p.m., InfoCision Stadium, Akron, Ohio

Records: UMass (3-7, 3-3 MAC). Akron (4-6, 2-4 MAC).

Last week: UMass beat Ball State, 24-10. Akron lost to Buffalo, 55-24.

All-time series: 1-1

Last meeting: Akron beat UMass, 14-13, at Gillette Stadium last year.

TV/Internet: ESPN3, links can be found at umassathletics.com.

Radio: WWEI-FM (105.5);

When UMass has the ball: If Frohnapfel can’t go, UMass will likely lean heavily on running backs Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley to carry more of the load to avoid putting too much pressure on Austin Whipple, who has never thrown a pass in a college game.

“We want to be balanced. We haven’t been that balanced,” Mark Whipple said.

UMass junior receiver Tajae Sharpe said the receivers and Austin Whipple have focused on getting comfortable this week.

“We want to make sure we’re in the right spot to make things as easy as possible for Austin out there,” Sharpe said.

Even at full strength Akron figured to be tough to score on as it has allowed a MAC-best 21.0 points per game. That number has been moving in the wrong direction lately. It has allowed 27 or more points in its last three games, including 55 against Buffalo last week.

Akron ranks fourth in the conference in rushing (143.8) and passing (219.8) yards allowed per game. The Zips lead the MAC in sacks (24) and third-down percentage defense (34.1). Junior linebacker Jatavis Brown leads with 8.7 tackles per game and has registered four of those sacks. Freshman linebacker Jerome Lane leads Akron with five sacks in his rookie season.

“Akron is really solid,” Mark Whipple said. “There’s no question they’re the fastest defense.”

It is the most penalized team in the league averaging 74.8 yards per game.

When Akron has the ball: The Zips are one of the few teams in the league that doesn’t want to get in a shootout, as they’d rather keep the score manageable and rely on their defense. They’ve struggled in the red zone scoring on just 64.7 percent of the trips inside the 20-yard line, which is worst in the MAC.

Junior quarterback Kyle Pohl, who has missed time with an injury, is sixth in the MAC with 227.6 yards passing per game. He’s thrown seven touchdown passes and has been intercepted six times. Junior receiver Zach D’Orazio is his top target with 45 catches for 486 yards and one touchdown.

Connor Hundley and Jawon Chisholm have shared tailback duties. Hundley has 463 yards and three TDs on 86 carries, while Chisolm has 358 yards on five touchdowns.

SHARPE HONORED — After catching 13 passes for 239 yards in last week’s win over Ball State, Sharpe was the named the MAC East Offensive Player of the Week.

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