UMass center Matt Sparks: Offensive line needs to boost QB Austin Whipple

Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2014
AMHERST — Matt Sparks said Austin Whipple will be better than he looked against Akron when UMass plays Buffalo in the season finale at 1 p.m. Friday at McGuirk Stadium.

UMass’ junior center has seen the redshirt freshman quarterback in practice enough to feel good that game No. 2 has a chance to be better than game No. 1. Whipple was 12 for 20 for 157 yards against Akron. He was intercepted three times and threw one touchdown pass in the 30-6 loss on Nov. 18.

Sparks said it’s the offensive line’s job to put him in position to be successful.

“We didn’t give him much help at all. We didn’t give him much of a running game at all. We didn’t give him much time to pass,” Sparks said. “We need to help him out. Austin is a great quarterback. We just need him to be confident. We have to get Austin more comfortable and make sure he knows he can trust us. We’re all going to be where we’re supposed to be. He doesn’t have to think about anything. That’s on us. We need to help him out more.”

On Monday’s conference call, coach Mark Whipple first said it was 50-50 whether injured starter Blake Frohnapfel, who has yet to throw a football since being injured in the team’s win over Ball State on Nov. 12, would be available to play Friday. But shortly after he said that the Minutemen would “probably go with Whipple.”

Frohnapfel “has to practice and he hasn’t thrown,” Whipple said. “He hasn’t picked up a ball so we’ll probably go with Whipple and do the best we can.”

STAFFORD AT QB — Redshirt freshman Todd Stafford, who moved to tight end in the preseason, has switched to backup quarterback for Friday’s game to give the Minutemen options should Austin Whipple go down with an injury. Mark Whipple is trying to avoid burning the redshirts of junior A.J. Doyle and freshman Ross Comis.

“We don’t have enough guys,” the coach said. “We don’t want to use the redshirts on those guys.”

BULGER LOWE AWARD — Frohnapfel won the George H. “Bulger” Lowe Award, which annually goes to the top offensive and defensive players in New England.

Frohnapfel, who threw for 3,345 yards and 23 touchdowns, will receive the award at a banquet on Dec. 18 in Burlington.

He’s the seventh UMass player to receive the award joining Kole Ayi, Khari Samuel, Rene Ingoglia, Dave Palazzi, Garry Pearson, Greg Landry and Jerry Whelchel.

MACKEY AWARD — UMass tight end Jean Sifrin will learn Tuesday whether he’s a finalist for the Mackey Award, which is annually given to the nation’s top tight end.

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