Notebook: Quarterback Austin Whipple shows improvement, looks to fight for No. 1 backup in 2015

Last modified: Tuesday, December 02, 2014
AMHERST — UMass redshirt freshman Austin Whipple was better in his second start than his first filling in for junior Blake Frohnapfel, who missed the last two-plus games of the season with a right leg injury.

Whipple didn’t turn the ball over in a 41-21 loss Friday to Buffalo. This after throwing three interceptions in UMass’ 30-6 loss at Akron on Nov. 18.

But he was plagued by five dropped passes, including four on third down. He finished 13 for 28 for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

“He was better. But he’s a freshman and it’s a big difference from the guy we had before,” coach Mark Whipple said. “He took care of the ball better and made a couple plays. ... He played better, but obviously not well enough to get the job done on the scoreboard.”

With Frohnapfel expected to return healthy for the spring and 2015 season, Austin Whipple will compete with junior A.J. Doyle and true freshman Ross Comis to be the Minutemen’s No. 1 backup.

“I got a lot out of (the two starts). I think I kind of shown that I can play at this level. I’m not just the coach’s son, well, a little bit. I had little glimpses of that and obviously didn’t play well these past two weeks,” Austin Whipple said. “Just looking toward next year, I’ll be competing for the backup spot once again. I’ll back up (Frohnapfel) who we are excited to have back. He’s a great quarterback and unbelievable player and great person. I’m just looking forward to competing for the backup spot.”

Junior Jovan Santos-Knox said the defense needed to be better with a young quarterback at the controls.

“I think it just opens a lot of eyes and shows us that we need to become a complete team if we want to win,” Santos-Knox said. “You can’t just depend on one player. It hurt us, we were down, that’s our leader, our captain, our everything. When he went down it kind of shocked us, but you can’t use that as an excuse.”

MAC STANDINGS — UMass (3-9 overall) finished tied for fourth with Akron, which lost to Kent State Friday, in the Mid-American Conference at 3-5.

Bowling Green and Northern Iowa will meet in the Dec. 5 MAC championship.

INJURIES — Junior tight end Jean Sifrin (ankle), Robert Kitching (leg) and Lorenzo Woodley (undisclosed) all had to be helped off the field with injuries and did not return. The severity of each injury is unknown and unlikely to be made public with no upcoming games.

ATTENDANCE — The game’s official attendance was 13,417, but there weren’t nearly that many people at McGuirk Stadium. The NCAA’s rule formula allows UMass to count tickets sold or distributed, not just actual people at the game.

At the start of the game, only eight of McGuirk’s 20 seating sections were shoveled although some fans, with the help of UMass employees, cleared portions of other sections.

Former UMass standout Victor Cruz was among those in attendance. The New York Giants receiver is rehabbing a season-ending knee injury.

MILESTONES — Tajae Sharpe’s four catches gave him 85, the second best season total in school history. His 32 yards moved him to No. 2 in a season with 1,263. Both totals are behind Jimmy Moore, who caught 92 passes for 1,494 yards in 15 games in 1998.

Sharpe is now third in career receptions with 166.

Senior Stanley Andre’s 17 tackles gave him 291 in his career. Of those 190 were assisted, which puts him seventh all time at UMass. He finished his career with 35 consecutive starts.

MISCELLANEOUS — Marken Michel’s 50-yard run for a TD out of the wildcat package was UMass’ longest run of the year. ... Senior punter Brian McDonald had kicks of 67 and 61 yards, his two longest of the season. It was a first time a Minuteman punted at least 60 yards since 2012, when Colter Johnson had a 60-yard kick against Buffalo. ... Redshirt freshman tight end Todd Stafford, who moved to quarterback for one game for depth, attempted one pass as part of a trick play. It was incomplete.

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