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Winless UMass football faces struggling Akron

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Massachusetts football quarterback Mike Wegzyn has never been part of a losing team.

So with UMass (0-9, 0-5 Mid-American Conference) still in search of its first Football Bowl Subdivision win when it travels to face Akron on Saturday, which hasn’t won an FBS game since Nov. 26, 2010, Wegzyn has no plans to finish the year winless.

“It’s been tough on me and I know a lot of other guys are in the same boat, so getting a win on the season, that’s huge,” Wegzyn said after practice on Wednesday. “I’m not going down and having a defeated season. I think everybody’s on board and ready to get the ‘W’ this week.”

Receiver Deion Walker said the team’s lack of victories has nothing to do with its preparation.

“We definitely need a win, but I mean, we’re preparing the right way,” Walker said. “If we don’t get it, we’re doing everything right, so eventually it’s gonna come.”

The Minutemen have arguably their best chance to get in the win column when they take on the Zips (1-9, 0-6 MAC). Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at InfoCusion Stadium.

Despite squaring off against a struggling Zips team, who have lost seven straight affairs, UMass coach Charley Molnar said the Minutemen aren’t treating this game as any different of an opportunity to get a win.

“I think every game we play we can go out and get, so this is no different than last week,” Molnar said.

UMass losing ways were cemented by last week’s 63-0 debacle at Northern Illinois. The Minutemen had arguably their worst performance in a season filled with blowouts, allowing a season-high 610 total yards to the Huskies (9-1, 6-0 MAC).

Wegzyn said the plane ride home from DeKalb, Ill., was a long one and said the margin of defeat, along with the other beat downs, have taken a toll on the team as UMass tries to reverse its luck on Saturday.

“It kind of opens people’s eyes a little and this season, obviously, we’ve had a lot of adversity we’ve had to overcome and haven’t overcome the way we should have,” Wegzyn said.

Akron’s shortcomings haven’t been on the offensive side, averaging 436.7 yards per game this season. Senior quarterback Dalton Williams heads the Zips attack, throwing just more than 300 yards per game. Williams has also racked up 24 touchdowns through the air through their 10 games, compared to just 12 interceptions.

Regaining focus

After last Saturday’s loss to Northern Illinois, Molnar told UMassAthletics.com that he felt some players didn’t finish.

When asked about his comments on Wednesday, Molnar said some players started the game with the right amount of focus and then lost it in the fourth quarter, while others had the reverse problem.

He said he spoke to the specific players in question after the loss, but explained the difficulty for players to keep fighting without getting the validation of a win.

“Nobody wants to not play their heart out every play of the game, and sometimes when you’re not winning and you’re tired and it ends up being a long season, not so much on the calendar but it’s been a long season because we haven’t won a game,” Molnar said. “There’s been no validation, no reinforcement, none of those great feelings that you get when you win games. They just kind of drifted away, but we got them back.”

Birt dismissed from team

Molnar informed the media that redshirt junior defensive back Christian Birt has been kicked off the team for a violation of team rules related to academic issues.

Molnar said he wouldn’t make any specific comments relating to the violation.

 

Stephen Sellner can be reached at ssellner@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.

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