Scrolling Headlines:

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

UMass woman’s basketball ends FIU Holiday Classic with 65-47 loss to Drexel -

December 29, 2016

UMass men’s basketball finishes non-conference schedule strong with win over Georgia State -

December 28, 2016

Brett Boeing joins UMass hockey for second half of season -

December 28, 2016

Winning Hult Prize team at UMass to travel to semi-finals of competition in March -

December 28, 2016

UMass offensive line improved over offseason

Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar isn’t asking for much from his offensive line.

He just wants them to play average. But that’s easier said than done for a unit that allowed 32 sacks last season, which was second most in the Mid-American Conference.

Fast forward to the 2013 season opener, and it looks like Molnar may be getting his wish. The offensive line didn’t allow a single sack or a tackle for a loss (TFL) against No. 23 Wisconsin despite losing 45-0 last Saturday.

However, the offensive line still committed six penalties at the line of scrimmage, which put a partial damper on things for Molnar.

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

“It was a cleaner game by our offensive line. The penalties were very, very disappointing because we felt like we had more poise and that we had demonstrated that during camp,” he said. “But the upside of it is though the quarterback was pressured at times, there weren’t any sacks and we didn’t have any TFLs, we had no TFLs in that game. So every play was zero or better, which is an improvement from where we were a year ago.”

The leader of the offensive line is redshirt senior Anthony Dima at left tackle, who was named to the 2013 Outland Trophy preseason watch list. He is flanked by Tyrell Smith at left guard, Matt Sparks at center, Vincent Westcarr at right guard and Rutgers transfer David Osei at right tackle.

The offensive lineman who impressed Molnar the most on Saturday was Sparks. He had a particularly daunting task in trying to block nose guard Beau Allen, who started in all 14 games for Wisconsin last season and made 37 tackles.

“I’ve not said very much about him this camp, but Matt Sparks was up against in my opinion, maybe the best nose guard (Allen) in the country, and he fought through the whole game,” he said. “And that guy made a number of tackles, but it wasn’t a blood bath, he didn’t take over the game. He didn’t command extra help play after play, and we were prepared to help our center out in every which way possible if necessary and never had to use those strategies.”

But this was only one game. The next test for the offensive line is to remain healthy, which was a struggle for them last season. The Minutemen had to plug freshmen right into the fire last season due to injuries, and their inexperience meant quarterback Mike Wegzyn was under constant pressure.

Molnar talked about the health of some of his offensive linemen at UMass media day in August.

“Unfortunately with guys in and out, as you know (and) as I’ve talked about a few times, we’ve taken Vince Westcarr, and we’ve really tried to control his reps so we can get him through the course of the season,” he said. “So, he’s really in and out of the lineup. And now with Dima, he’s almost 100 percent, but he’s still struggling with some of the issues that have kept him out of the lineup. So, when you take those two guys out, who are bonafide starters, all of a sudden we don’t look quite as good.”

Luckily for Molnar, Westcarr and Dima are healthy at the moment, and they both were a part of the Minutemen’s improved line play on Saturday.

And as Molnar said at media day, he feels that when healthy, this offensive line “has been the best since I’ve been here.”

Cameron McDonough can be reached at cameronm@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Cam_McDonough.

 

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