Notebook: UMass shifts focus to remaining nine games

Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2015
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After opening the season with three losses in three of the toughest games on its schedule, the UMass football team was ready to close the book on chapter one of its season after Saturday’s 62-27 loss to Notre Dame.

“That was the first quarter of our season and those were three good teams. There’s good things and bad things there. Looking forward, there’s nine games we can win,” UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said. “We have Florida International coming up next. That’s a game we can certainly win.”

UMass hosts FIU at 3 p.m. at McGuirk Stadium on Saturday.

“We’re trying to win nine straight. The first three games were good opponents. If we can beat Florida International and get this thing going, that’s kind of what we’re looking for,” Frohnapfel said. “In the next couple weeks the seniors need to get together and say what do we want our legacy at UMass to be as we graduate. What will we be remembered for.”

Senior safety Trey Dudley-Giles said the Minutemen have to learn from their start.

“We’re going to get back and watch the film. We’re 0-3 and that’s not the way we wanted to start. Hopefully, we get back home and get ready to start another season. We’re getting close to MAC play. We’ve just got to play better,” he said. “We just have to learn from our mistakes. We have to learn how to compete in 2-minute drives and make more plays. We have to play better as a team. Not just defense playing good and the offense not playing good. It just has to be a team effort.”

UMass coach Mark Whipple thought the hills in front of his team weren’t as tall as the ones behind it.

“It’s a hard deal. It’s like we’re the little brother,” Whipple said. “We have to play better and we will and I’m happy about the disappointment on (Frohnapfel’s) and Tajae’s faces. We didn’t have Rodney Mills and he’s a really great leader. I felt so bad for him. The kid is crying in the locker room because he couldn’t play (due to injury). We have some good leaders and they have to step up and we have to move forward. ... We’re back in our element now. We have to get our guys prepared for Florida International tomorrow.”

KICKING CHANGE — When Blake Lucas’ extra point was blocked and returned for a defensive 2-point conversion at the end of last week’s 25-23 loss to Temple, Whipple didn’t know if the miss was the kicker’s fault or not, but he praised Lucas’ overall play.

When Lucas’ first extra point Saturday was blocked, Whipple had seen enough.

True freshman Michael Caggiano took over and made all three extra points. UMass didn’t attempt a field goal.

“I had to make a decision,” Whipple said. “(Caggiano) did alright. He was 3 for 3. We’re just going to have Blake kick off from now on. That’s the least of our worries. I didn’t think the extra points would help us in this game.”

FRESHMEN — In addition to Caggiano, true freshman running back Andy Isabella made his collegiate debut as a kick returner and had six returns for 116 yards.

Marquis Young’s 83-yard run was the longest by a freshman since R.J. Cobbs had an 84-yard run in 2002.

Young’s “fast. Honestly, I didn’t know he was that fast. But he likes to play. It’s cleaning up his footwork and all the other things,” Whipple said. “He’s a super, super kid that we’re really excited about. Marcel Shipp did a great job recruiting him last year.”

RAZZLE-DAZZLE — UMass used some trickery on its third touchdown drive. From his own 25, Frohnapfel pitched to Andrew Libby, who pitched back to Frohnapfel. The quarterback then lofted a 56-yard pass to Shakur Nesmith. It was Nesmith’s first catch of the season.

The Minutemen tried a fake punt later in the game on fourth-and-8, but Logan Laurent’s run only went for 3 yards.

INJURIES — The Irish took advantage of Khary Bailey-Smith’s absence in the Minuteman backfield, picking on Joe Colton and Zeke Edmonds for big plays. Bailey-Smith, who was injured at the end of the Temple game, didn’t make the trip with an undisclosed injury.

Mills, who was a game-time decision with a leg injury, warmed up but didn’t play.

Senior nose tackle Robert Kitching, who was also a game-time decision, did play, but saw sparse action. Sophomore Sha-Ki Holines, who saw action in his place, was injured in the second quarter and did not return.

“He was alright. I don’t know. He was on the sideline at the end, so he seemed all right.” Whipple said.

Offensive lineman Fabian Hoeller was knocked out of the game early and didn’t return.

ROBINSON-WOODGETT PLAYS BOTH WAYS — UMass redshirt junior linebacker John Robinson-Woodgett saw action on offense for the first time, lining up on a handful of plays as a fullback with Mills out.

He made six tackles as a linebacker.

NEXT UP — UMass will host Florida International, Saturday at 3 p.m. in the first game of the season at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. The Panthers (2-2) fell to Louisiana Tech, 27-17.

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