UMass welcomes back alumni in Spring Game

By Stephen Sellner

Maria Uminski/Collegian

The Massachusetts football team took the next step in its inaugural season in the Football Bowl Subdivision with its annual Spring Game, held Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

The team welcomed back alumni like former NFL running back Marcel Shipp as part of the scrimmage. The current UMass squad faced off against an alumni unit for the first half of the game in a lighthearted, yet competitive scrimmage before finishing the game with an inter-squad battle in the second half.

First-year coach Charley Molnar felt the alumni had a very positive influence on his team both on and off the field.

“To hear their stories about when they were here [and] the leadership stories that they passed on to our senior class were immeasurable as far as the value they have for our program,” he said.

Also in attendance was former Minuteman and former New England Patriot James Ihedigbo, who was the defensive coordinator for the alumni team.

The alumni seemed to embrace the spirited atmosphere. On the very first play, they went for the home run with a flee-flicker attempt that ended with a pass interference call on the current UMass secondary. On two other occasions, they called for reverse passes but failed on both tries.

Senior offensive lineman Stephane Milhim was proud of the efforts of the alumni team and joked about the fact that some are past their physical peak. 

“They’re not that great in shape, you know, but they gave it their all and I was proud of those guys for coming out,” said Milhim.

As for the current team, the Minutemen showcased their shotgun, four-receiver-wide look on offense with quarterback Kellen Pagel running with the first team.

Pagel and the offense had its way with the alumni defense, with the exclamation point coming on a 61-yard touchdown strike on a play-action pass from Pagel to a wide-open Marken Michel.

Running back Jordan Broadnax was a bright spot for the offense. The sophomore was given a steady workload, finishing the day with 16 carries for 65 yards.  

“Because he was young, I wanted him to get a little more work and just to see how he handled the work volume, and I thought he did really well,” said Molnar. He later added that he was impressed with Broadnax’s toughness running the ball and hopes he can get bigger over the summer.

As for the inter-squad scrimmage, kicker Brendon Levengood’s 33-yard field goal was the only scoring play.

The defense looked sharp against the offensive unit with strong performances coming from the front seven and the secondary. Linebacker D.J. Adeoba finished the day with a game-high nine tackles and safety Christian Birt added seven tackles and three pass break-ups.

The scrimmage concluded the spring workouts for the Minutemen. Up next are summer workouts as the team prepares for its first game of the season at Connecticut on Aug. 30.

Milhim is excited for the season to start. He even knew how many days there were until the opening game.

“I believe it’s 124, so we’re ready,” he said.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.