UMass comes apart in the second half, falls to Toledo

Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
FOXBOROUGH — By the time it was over, it didn’t feel like a heartbreaker for UMass anymore.

Toledo’s second-half domination was so complete that the Minutemen’s first-half uprising barely seemed like it happened in the same game. UMass looked like it had No. 19 Toledo on the ropes in the second quarter, but an 18-point intermission advantage evaporated in an instant.

The Rockets blasted out of halftime scoring on every possession until they took a knee. UMass couldn’t answer and fell 51-35, Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

“They showed why they’re ranked where they are in the second half,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “And we’re still trying to play a complete game.”

Had the Minutemen built off their first half, the victory might have sparked hope for a late-season run. Instead, UMass (1-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) will have to win its remaining five games to avoid finishing with a losing record.

“We just didn’t execute. We just have to stay together as a team,” said senior receiver Tajae Sharpe, who had 12 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns. “The leaders, we have to step up and get things rolling and make plays when we need them. ... We have to find a way to come up with victories. We have to turn this around and turn these Ls into wins.”

At the end of a first half when almost everything went right for UMass, something went wrong.

Leading 28-10 with 6 seconds left and the ball on Toledo’s 1-yard line, UMass elected to try a quick throw. If it was incomplete the Minutemen would still have time for a short field goal. But Blake Frohnapfel was intercepted in the end zone.

Had a faster Toledo player made the pick it might have gone for a touchdown, but linebacker Ja’Waun Woodley was caught from behind at the UMass 17 to end the half.

The empty red zone trip was a missed opportunity for the Minutemen to stretch their lead, but the dodged bullet appeared to give Toledo momentum. UMass got the ball coming out of intermission with a chance to re-establish itself, but a holding penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-26, which led to a punt.

“The holding penalty was really discouraging and then we get a 15-yarder on top,” Whipple said.

Toledo’s halftime adjustments produced a much sharper offense and a 70-yard TD drive that made it 28-17 with 10:33 left in the third. The Minutemen were on their heels the rest of the way.

The Rockets scored touchdowns on their first five second-half drives, while UMass had just one first down in its first five post-intermission possessions.

“Whenever the momentum changes it always has an effect on the field,” Sharpe said. “We have to find a way to come out and be better in the second half. ... They played better than we did in the second half.”

Frohnapfel was 27 for 49 for 240 yards, four touchdowns and the costly interception. UMass didn’t make the quarterback available for the postgame press conference.

“(In the second half) we didn’t make any plays on offense,” Whipple said. “We had a plan ready and we just didn’t execute.”

Turnovers were UMass’ best defense in the first half. The Minutemen picked off three Philip Ely passes and turned all three into scores. Frohnapfel connected with Rodney Mills and Shakur Nesmith for TDs of 10 and 14 yards, respectively, to lead 14-3 after the first quarter.

Toledo opened the second quarter with a touchdown, but UMass answered with a 76-yard drive, capped by Frohnapfel’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Sharpe.

Trey Dudley-Giles interception set up a 50-yard TD run by freshman Marquis Young that put the Minutemen head 28-10 with 8:23 left in the half.

When the Rockets stopped giving the ball away, UMass came apart.

“They made some good second-half adjustments,” said senior corner Randall Jette, who had one of the Minutemen’s three interceptions. “They’re a good team. It was a battle of two halves and they won the second half.”

Ely finished 26 for 47 for 356 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Terry Swanson had 118 yards and a TD on 21 carries.

UMass is at Ball State, Saturday at 2 p.m.

“I’m just looking forward to Ball State,” Whipple said. “We’ll correct it and move on.”

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