UMass football hoping to end droughts vs. Wagner

  • UMass running back Marquis Young, left, runs the ball during the second half against South Carolina Saturday, in Columbia, S.C. AP FILE

Friday, October 28, 2016

AMHERST — It’s been five weeks since the UMass football team has beaten anybody and seven years since the Minutemen won on senior day.

They certainly appear to have the opponent up next to snap both streaks when Wagner visits McGuirk Stadium, Saturday at noon.

UMass sophomore tailback Marquis Young said beating any opponent would be a step in the right direction.

“We’ve shot ourselves in the foot. Any type of victory would help us get a little more momentum,” Young said. “I wish we would have gotten some W’s earlier in the year, but it didn’t work out in our favor. We just have to stay focused and play our game.”

UMass coach Mark Whipple thought his players would come out motivated after coming up short at South Carolina last week.

“They’re ready to go. They’re disappointed in last week and hopefully that’s motivation,” he said. “We just have to do whatever we can to get a win.”

The difference between playing Southeastern Conference teams, which UMass has played three of this year, and Northeast Conference squads like Wagner, is more than just on the compass. NEC football teams are in the FCS, but they only offer 40 scholarships, less than half of the 85 scholarships FBS teams can grant.

Wagner (4-3) is 2-3 against Division I opponents. Its first two wins came over Concorida of Michigan and St. Anselm’s, which are Division II programs.

The Seahawks lost to Boston College (42-10), Columbia (15-13) and Bryant (27-17). They beat Sacred Heart (45-20) and Central Connecticut (25-21).

Whipple said the Minutemen are taking Wagner seriously.

“They’re tough. They do a lot of good things,” he said. “They’re pretty good. We have to play and take care of our business. We’d like to do whatever we can to get a win. They’re a physical tough group. They have a lot of good players.”

Denel Knight leads Wagner in rushing with 77.1 yards per game. He has four touchdowns this season.

Quarterback Alex Thomson is 109-for-200 for 1,402 yards. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns and has been intercepted twice. John Williams is his favorite target. He caught two of the TD passes and has 16 receptions for 347 yards.

UMass defensive coordinator Tom Masella is a Wagner alumnus and was the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator before returning to defense with Whipple in Amherst. He had a hand in recruiting Knight, Thomson and Williams.

It’s UMass’ first FCS opponent since losing to Maine in 2013.

The game is a rare October senior day, but UMass (1-7) closes its season with a road game at Troy, followed by a bye week, followed by road games at BYU and Hawaii.

UMass will honor 13 graduating seniors before the game: Dan Jonah, Khary Bailey-Smith, John Robinson-Woodgett, Michael Dowe Jr., Vondell Langston, Michael Boland, Jalen Williams, Bernard Davis, Fabian Hoeller, Enock Asante, Elijiah Wilkinson, Peter Ngobidi and Peter Angeh.

“I want to send the boys out. It’s their last home game,” Young said. “I want to send them out on a good note that they can always remember.”

NOTES: Junior linebacker-saftey hybrid Teddy Lowery’s status won’t be officially determined until game time. Whipple said defensive lineman Joe Previte would likely miss the game with a dislocated elbow. His status going forward is uncertain.

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