Tajae Sharpe becomes all-time career reception leader at UMass in loss to Temple

Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2015
FOXBOROUGH — Before Tajae Sharpe ever played a game for Mark Whipple, the UMass coach had seen his numbers and his tape and predicted the receiver would eventually break all of the school’s career receiving records.

Sharpe began making that prediction come true Saturday in the Minutemen’s 25-23 loss to Temple at Gillette Stadium.

His 11 catches for 156 yards gave him 188 career receptions, passing Adrian Zullo who played for Whipple from 1998 to 2002. Sharpe now has 2,461 receiving yards in his career, which moved him from fourth to second on that list. He needs 432 to break that record which is also held by Zullo.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to go down in the UMass history books,” Sharpe said. “I give all the credit first off to Coach Whipple. He’s a great offensive-minded coach and he puts me in position to get the ball and things like that. And also to my quarterback and my whole offense, and for Blake (Frohnapfel) for getting me the ball.

“And even my defense going out and getting stops so I can have a chance to make plays for this team,” he added. “It’s an honor and a privilege, but all that really doesn’t matter if we don’t come out with the win. We have to find a way to come out on top.”

Whipple wasn’t surprised at Sharpe’s accomplishment.

“He’s a special player. I told him that when I first got here. It probably would have happened sooner if I threw to him more,” Whipple said. “He’s a great player. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Whipple was likely being sarcastic as it would be hard for UMass to throw the ball to him more. Sharpe caught 85 passes a year ago and has 22 already in two games this year.

NO BLAME FOR LUCAS — Whipple had not seen the tape of the game when he came into his postgame press conference, but he did not place blame for the critical blocked extra point on senior kicker Blake Lucas.

“He kicked it good. He had a pretty good game. Only time will tell,” Whipple said. “It’s not fair to say until we see the tape.”

Temple appeared to get push up the middle and Nate D. Smith got a hand on the ball.

Prior to that Lucas made a 34-yard field goal, his first attempt of the season, and two extra points. It was the first time in four years that he made his first field goal attempt of the season.

Lucas actually had a reception, the first of his career, in the second quarter. On fourth and 3 from the Temple 10, UMass lined up in unusual fashion, putting six players to the far left of the field. Center Matt Sparks was by himself on the right hash mark with quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and a back behind him. One receiver was lined up on the right and at the last minutes Lucas, who was on the field to confuse Temple, sprinted in to join that receiver. As it turned out Lucas was the only open eligible receiver and Frohnapfel hit him for a 3-yard first-down reception. The play kept the drive alive and two plays later Frohnapfel his Rodney Mills for a touchdown that tied the game.

ATTENDANCE — UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford would have liked a larger crowd than the 10,141 that attended the game in Foxborough, but he praised the fans who came.

“I thought the crowd was good,” said Bamford, who was at his first home football game as the Minutemen’s athletic director. “We’re obviously always hoping for more people, but they had energy and stayed with us. I hope that our effort and style of play will attract more to come out to games at both McGuirk and Gillette. We are trying to build something the commonwealth can be proud of. It will take some time but I like where we are headed.”

New UMass system president Marty Meehan was at the game and addressed the team before the game.

RUNNING BACKS — True freshman Sekai Lindsay, who was playing in his first collegiate game, led UMass in carries with 12, but like all of the Minutemen, he struggled to gain ground and finished with just 35 yards. Jamal Wilson had four carries for 18 yards. Junior Shadrach Abrokwah did not have a carry after leading the team in rushing last year.

MISCELLANEOUS — The referee twice asked the public address system to stop playing music right before a play before threatening to call a penalty on UMass if it continued. The Minutemen were flagged 12 times for 106 yards.

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