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Cyr: Mark Whipple’s late-game decision Saturday was an understandable one

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Before people start jumping the gun, let me first start by saying that I disagreed with Massachusetts football coach Mark Whipple’s decision in the final seconds of Saturday’s 42-41 loss against Miami (OH).

Trailing by a point with one minute, 13 seconds left, UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel led an 80-yard drive with zero timeouts left. Frohnapfel carried the Minutemen to the 3-yard line with three seconds left on the game clock.

From there, all Frohnapfel needed to do was spike the ball to stop the clock and give the field goal unit an opportunity to win the game on a 22-yard attempt.

But instead of spiking the ball, Frohnapfel hurried his team to the line to run one final play to go for the touchdown.

Frohnapfel connected with running back Shadrach Abrokwah on a pass into the flats, but Abrokwah was tackled at the 2-yard line as time expired on the clock, resulting in another gut-wrenching – and seemingly avoidable – defeat for the Minutemen.

Had I been in Whipple’s shoes I would have spiked the ball and brought out the field goal team to attempt the potential game-winning kick.

The NCAA rule states that if there is less than three seconds left on the game clock, then a team must run a play and isn’t allowed to spike the ball. But, because there was three seconds left, Whipple could’ve chosen to spike it.

After going back and re-watching the 27-point lead slip away from the Minutemen, I can understand Whipple’s decision.

Whipple doesn’t trust his kickers. Plain and simple. On the season, UMass kickers are just 2-for-5 – Blake Lucas is 2-for-4 and Matt Wylie missed his only attempt – including a missed 22-yard chip shot against Vanderbilt three weeks prior that would have sent the game to overtime.

It’s also worth noting that Lucas missed an extra point earlier in the second quarter.

Although Lucas had been perfect on PATs prior to missing one earlier in the game, the missed extra point was still looming in Whipple’s mind from earlier in the game.

“We just put it in Froh’s hands,” Whipple told MassLive after the game. “Not the kickers.”

Wasn’t it odd that he referred to his quarterback by nickname while Lucas was simply mentioned as “the kicker?”

Whipple thought that putting the ball in Frohnapfel’s hands gave UMass a better chance of winning the game rather than kicking this field goal.

Frohnapfel’s been everything for the Minutemen’s offense this season. The transfer quarterback is 134-for-248 (54 percent) for 1,860 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Last season UMass quarterbacks totaled for 1,887 yards and just nine touchdowns for the entire season.

Whipple took a gamble and lost. A gamble, with a team that’s 0-6, isn’t going to sit over well with Minutemen fans for a long time coming.

It’s still far too early in his tenure back to start reading the “Fire Whipple” pleads, but it’s decisions like these that make you wonder if a more conservative approach could have given UMass its first win of the season.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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