There are tough losses and then there are really tough losses.
The Massachusetts football team is coming off of one of those really tough losses after Football Championship Subdivision member Maine came into Gillette Stadium and knocked off the Minutemen on Saturday.
But UMass (0-2) couldn’t afford to dwell on the disappointing defeat. Instead it needed to move on and focus on its next opponent, which is sure to be no easy walk through the park, as it travels to the Big 12’s Kansas State this Saturday.
Moving on from a game like Maine can be tough, but Minuteman coach Charley Molnar is happy with the mood at practice.
“We had a good practice,” he said. “I think the guys are mad. I know that we’ve regrouped pretty quickly. We had a pretty spirited Monday practice and we’re ready to move on.”
While the mood of the team may be good, Molnar still realizes how disappointing the loss was, not only for his players, but also for the fans.
“Every loss is tough,” he said. “I think the one thing is that our fans really expected a win. I think that was the biggest disappointment. They came out to the game, the fans were into it from the very, very beginning, and believe me I really wanted to win not only for the football team but for the people who came out to support us.”
Those who came out to support UMass on Saturday saw quarterback Mike Wegzyn struggle against the Black Bears, ultimately leading to him being pulled at halftime in favor of A.J. Doyle. Molnar announced on Wednesday after practice that he will turn to Doyle on Saturday.
It is still unclear if Doyle will have Rob Blanchflower as a weapon at tight end, as he is designated as day-to-day heading into Saturday. Running back Jordan Broadnax’s status is even murkier, as he was not given an injury designation by the team and was not at practice on Monday. Wide receiver Shakur Nesmith’s status is also in doubt after he missed practice on Monday, but tight end Ricardo Miller looks like he will return after he made his way back to the practice field on Monday.
The Minutemen are in for one tall task this Saturday against the Wildcats, though. Kansas State is coming off of a dream season in 2012 led by former quarterback Collin Klein. The Wildcats won the Big 12 and went on to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, where they lost to Oregon.
But this year’s team is not the 2012 version of Kansas State. Klein has since graduated and moved on to try and make his way into the NFL. This year’s team is 1-1 with a loss against FCS North Dakota State in the season opener before rebounding against Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend.
Klein was known as a quarterback who could also run and so are his replacements. Junior Jake Waters has gotten the majority of the playing time in the Wildcats’ first two games, completing 71.7 percent of his passes, throwing for two touchdowns and four interceptions. He has only run for a net of 14 yards, but he has the ability to make opponents pay with his legs. His backup is sophomore Daniel Sams, who has only thrown two balls, completing one, but he has run for 80 yards from under center.
“Both their quarterbacks are very good runners,” Molnar said. “Neither one is necessarily Collin Klein, but they’re both pretty darn good. So not only do you have to figure out how you want to play coverage against them, but also you have to keep your eyes on the quarterback if they decide to tuck the ball and run.”
And when the two quarterbacks aren’t running, they have deep threat options in Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton and Tramaine Thompson to throw to.
“No. 1 (thing to watch for) is how fast their wide receivers are,” Molnar said. “They’ve got great speed. It’s like a 4-by-1 relay team when they put their wide receivers out there. And that will be the fastest group of receivers that we’ll play this year. So we’ll certainly have our hands full with them.”
The Minutemen have had success against Kansas State in the past, nearly pulling off an upset in 2009 before eventually losing 21-17. The Wildcats hold the 2-0 series advantage.
UMass will try to make things interesting once again in Manhattan, Kan., this Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard on 105.5 WEEI in the Springfield area.
Cameron McDonough can be reached at email@example.com and followed on twitter @Cam_McDonough.