Notebook: UMass has gone backward after so many close games in 2014

Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
FOXBOROUGH — A lot of the optimism heading into the 2015 football season came from how close UMass had been in many of its nine losses in 2014. The hope was, with so many key players returning, that the Minutemen could turn some of the five games that they’d led in the fourth quarter before eventually losing, into wins. They lost those five games by a combined 19 points.

Instead, UMass has gone backward against many of the same opponents:

■ The Minutemen lost to Colorado by three in 2014 and by 34 in 2015.

■ They lost to Bowling Green by five last year and by 24 this year.

■ A year ago, Toledo edged UMass, 42-35. Saturday was 51-35.

■ The Minutemen beat Kent State 40-17 last year and lost 15-10 this year.

That’s an 87 point swing.

UMass coach Mark Whipple said after opening Mid-American Conference play 0-3 he’s confident his 1-6 team will stay invested.

“Last week, I was concerned. But not the way they went about their business,” he said. “They like playing football. I like coaching these guys. I’m not concerned at all.”

RED ZONE WOES — UMass’ season-long red zone woes at both ends of the field came under the spotlight again in Saturday’s loss.

The Minutemen scored on three of their four trips inside the 20, but the fourth was costly.

UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel has just six interceptions this season, but three have been in the end zone — one against Colorado, one vs. Bowling Green and another vs. Toledo. His pick at the end of the first half helped spark Toledo’s comeback.

The Minutemen have yet to stop an opponent from scoring when it reaches the red zone, a total of 33 trips. Toledo scored all eight times it got inside UMass’ 20, with five touchdowns and three field goals.

INJURIES — Linebacker Trey Seals and cornerback Kelton Brackett, both starters, each missed the game with undisclosed injuries. Trey Dudley-Giles moved from safety to corner, Joe Colton moved from linebacker to safety. Zeke Edmonds and Da’Sean Downey both moved into the starting lineup at linebacker.

Senior receiver Marken Michel, and freshmen James Oliphant and Sekai Lindsay all left the game with injuries and did not return. Lindsay was driven off the field on a cart.

SHARPE SHINES — Senior receiver Tajae Sharpe continued to be a bright spot in a tough season for the Minutemen. Despite having a variety of defensive looks thrown at him, he caught 12 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

It was his ninth career game of over 100 yards, including his fifth this season, and his eighth of over 150 yards.

He’s at 897 yards for the season and is on pace to break Jimmy Moore’s 1998 single-season record of 1,494 yards.

SANTOS-KNOX TACKLES — Senior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox had a career-high 20 tackles. He’s had 37 combined in the last two games.

It was the first time a Minuteman had 20 tackles since 2004 when current assistant coach Charles Walker tied the school record with 23 against Delaware.

PENALTIES — UMass was flagged 15 times for 134 yards, including 10 for 79 in the second half.

“Penalties were really discouraging in the second half,” Whipple said.

Five of the penalties were 15-yard personal fouls and five were defensive offsides.

ATTENDANCE — Including several high school ensembles in attendance for Band Day, the game drew 12,793. It’s UMass’ second lowest home attendance of the season ahead of only the 10,141 that saw the Minutemen’s 25-23 loss to Temple.

MISCELLANEOUS — Entering the game, Toledo’s defense hadn’t given up a first-quarter touchdown. UMass scored two. ... Frohnapfel’s 22-yard run in the second quarter was his longest as a Minuteman.

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