UMass faces uphill battle with No. 19 Toledo

Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
AMHERST — Trey Dudley-Giles said no win, not even an upset of No. 19 Toledo, would wipe out the frustration the UMass football team has felt.

But he thought beating the Rockets (6-0) would be the spark the Minutemen (1-5) have been futilely chasing all year. The teams kick off Saturday at 3 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

“It would get us rolling. It was get us back on the ball. We’ve been down these past couple games,” Dudley-Giles said. “A win this weekend would get this team going. They’re one of the best teams we play this year. No doubt.”

The Minutemen hung with the Rockets last year before falling 42-35 in Ohio. Dudley-Giles said putting any stock in that would be a mistake.

“I don’t want to look back too much at last year. We beat Kent State last year and thought we were just going to do right things this year,” he said referring to last week’s 15-10 loss to KSU. “We just have to play and do our jobs.”

The Rockets are one of 14 undefeated teams in the Bowl Subdivision. The preseason Mid-American Conference favorites are in contention to earn the Group of Five’s (non-Power Five conferences) one bid to a big-money elite New Year’s Day bowl (formerly BCS bowl). They boast wins over Arkansas (SEC) and Iowa State (Big 12), and easily dispatched Kent State (38-7, Oct. 10), the team that beat UMass last weekend.

The Rockets have allowed just 13.2 points per game, by far the lowest in the league. They average 34.7 points per game, which is third in the MAC.

“There’s a reason they’re 19th in the country. They have a lot of players and lot of depth. They’ve won a lot of games,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “It’s a huge challenge.”

While Whipple had no problem acknowledging his opponent’s greatness, he was concentrating on his own squad.

“We have to play better. We have to execute on offense, play defense like we did last week. We have to do that and then find a way to win in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We just talked about focus. They have to focus on this game and that’s it. There’s been distractions and they haven’t totally focused since the Temple game.”

Whipple wasn’t entirely sure what had been distracting his team.

“Homecoming. Notre Dame. I don’t know. Midterms. There just wasn’t the total focus. They have to focus on this game. When they do that we have a pretty good team. We haven’t played a complete game. When one side’s been good, the other side has been not so good. The special teams has been all right,” Whipple said. “We’ve had two really good days of practice. We were much more physical (Wednesday). There was a little more focus and paying attention to detail.”

PINK — To draw attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, UMass will have pink accessories as part of their uniform. While the Minutemen haven’t shown what they’ll be adding, in the past players have worn some combination of pink gloves, socks, laces, belts, etc.

BAND DAY — The game is also the annual Band Day game, where dozens of marching ensembles from New England and around the Northeast join UMass’ marching band during pregame, halftime and postgame.

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