Week after week, Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar has been impressed with his team’s improvement despite not having it show in the win column.
However, this is the week Molnar believes his team can finally bring home its first win of the season.
In the annual band day, the Minutemen (0-5, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) open up their first MAC home game of the season against an opponent going through similar growing pains as themselves, as they welcome Miami (Ohio) to Gillette Stadium on Saturday at 3 p.m.
UMass opened up conference play last weekend with a rough 28-7 loss at the hands of Bowling Green. But despite coming up short, the Minutemen may have found a diamond in the rough with redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Wilson.
With starting running back Stacey Bedell out, and backup Lorenzo Woodley only seeing one snap due to an ankle injury, UMass was forced to go with Wilson, who did not disappoint. Wilson ran for 119 yards on 20 carries, and with both Bedell and Woodley returning from injury this week, Molnar realizes the potential he has in the backfield.
When asked about reps at the running back position this week, Molnar was happy with the depth Wilson will bring to the table.
“He (Wilson) won’t get more reps than he did last week that’s for sure because he got a load,” he said. “We’ll divide our reps up and Jamal (Wilson) will definitely get a piece of the pie.”
Molnar was also quick to point out there wasn’t going to be another quarterback competition after A.J. Doyle left late in the third quarter of last Saturday’s game.
“Right now it’s still A.J.’s job,” Molnar said. “He had two really good days of practice, he’s moving around better and gaining more confidence. We still have two more workdays left in the week, but he’s in the driver’s seat.”
The Redhawks (0-5, 0-1 MAC) come in with a new look this week after firing head coach Don Treadwell and offensive coordinator John Klacik following their 0-5 start. Miami named Mike Bath the interim head coach, who’s been with the team for the last 10 years, including being the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach for the past three seasons.
When asked earlier in the week, Molnar said that he expects two styles of offenses from the Redhawks. He believes they will show mainly a conventional spread type offense, but he is also quick to point out that they have shown the ability to run the ball using options.
“They’ve shown both offensive styles all season long so I have no reason to think that they wouldn’t use both heading into our game,” Molnar said. “You can make changes as a new head coach and as a new offensive coordinator but you can’t change your entire offense in 3-4 days. We believe they’ll do what’s most comfortable for them and that means we’ve got to prepare for both styles of play.”
Miami is ranked 11th in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 35.6 per contest, making it the perfect opportunity for a struggling UMass offense to put some points on the board.
“We just have to keep being physical and aggressive,” Wilson said. “I have to keep being decisive with my runs. I’ve been studying their film and I need to pick up on guys’ tendencies and how they play. I’m happy to have them (Bedell and Woodley) back. It will definitely take the load off me and we can all do it together.”
The Minutemen will also be supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month with special pink helmet decals along with pink shoelaces.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff and can be seen on ESPN3. The game can also be heard on the UMass Sports Network, WEEI 105.5.
Andrew Cyr can be reached at email@example.com, and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr