Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football begins MAC schedule at Miami (Ohio)

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar doesn’t have very fond memories of his visits to Miami (Ohio).

Despite it being his first year as UMass coach, Molnar has a wealth of experience coaching in the Mid-American Conference. In his 12 different stops before arriving to Amherst, four of them were at MAC schools: Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

And he doesn’t remember leaving very many, if any of those trips to Miami (Ohio) with a victory.

But that’s the task for the Minutemen (0-3) this weekend.

On Saturday, they’ll look to get their long-awaited first win as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision when they play the RedHawks (1-2) in both teams’ MAC openers, and the first-ever for UMass.

If last season and part of this season so far is any barometer for Miami, the Minutemen’s secondary will face a difficult challenge in stopping the RedHawks’ air attack.

In 2011, Miami ranked second in the MAC and 18th in the country in passing yardage thanks to the arm of quarterback Zac Dysert. He finished right behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Southern California’s Matt Barkley with 3,513 passing yards.

This season, Dysert has returned, and has piled up decent yardage against top non-conference teams. The redshirt senior has thrown for 705 yards, including two touchdowns, through three games, even though Miami has played Ohio State and Boise State on the road.

RedHawks wide receiver Nick Harwell, who finished fifth in the country last season in receiving yardage with 1,425 yards, will be out with a leg injury in this weekend’s contest, which gives a bit of a break to the UMass defense.

But the Miami offense is still potent, and wide receiver Andy Cruse has filled in nicely in three games, already hauling in 26 catches for 150 yards and two scores.

“These guys can really throw the ball,” Molnar said. “This pass offense will be by far the best that we’ve faced this season. Their quarterback is a really, really good passer, an excellent runner, a good dual-threat guy, and having great play in the secondary is going to be critical.”

Playing against three consecutive BCS schools – Connecticut, Indiana and Michigan – to begin the season should give UMass some idea of what it’s getting into this weekend. Although the team has given up 143 points in its first three games, including 63 last week to Denard Robinson and the Wolverines, the secondary has shown glimmers of hope.

But Molnar cautioned that it will take the defense to step up as a unit to contain the RedHawks’ potent passing attack.

“Of course, if our defensive line does their part, it makes (the secondary’s) part a little bit easier,” Molnar said. “But these guys are going to have to come play Saturday. They have to bring their A game.”

Molnar said he wants the hard work to pay off for his squad.

“You work, not quite, but close to 300 days a year at the game of football,” Molnar said. “And to work that much, to not get a chance to experience victory is very, very unsatisfying. We’ve all worked very hard, the players have put in a tremendous amount, and probably more than they bargained for when they came here.”

Kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday from Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio. The game is also going to be televised on ABC40 in the Springfield area as well as ABC5 in the Boston area.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.


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