UMass football kicking situation still undecided, looking forward to opportunity to play at Beaver Stadium

By Andrew Cyr

(Madeline Parsons/ Daily Collegian)
(Madeline Parsons/Daily Collegian)

When Blake Lucas trotted onto the field to the 22-yard line with six seconds remaining against Vanderbilt last Saturday, he knew exactly what he his job was: make the field goal.

Come this Saturday however, when the Massachusetts football team takes on Penn State, Lucas, or backup kicker Matthew Wylie for that matter, won’t know what his job will be until game day when Whipple decides who the starter will be.

“We probably won’t know who it is until the game,” the coach said.  “We’ll wait until Saturday unless someone stinks it up or someone does well, but yesterday they both kicked the ball well so we’ll go day-to-day.”

Lucas’ job was jeopardized after missing the game tying “chip shot” kick by a wide margin.  Lucas is two-for-four this season, after struggling last year making only three of his 10 attempts.  He is 12-for-22 in his career with the Minutemen.

“You definitely feel for him,” Wylie said. “No one ever wants to see that happen to anybody.”

Wylie earned his way onto the field by taking kickoff duties against Vanderbilt in his first collegiate game, kicking off a total six times for a total of 311 yards, an average of 51.8 yards per attempt.

“I’m excited.  I’m just going to go out there and compete and try to do the best I can do this week, ”said Wylie.

Once in a lifetime opportunity

When the UMass takes the field on Saturday, it’ll be in front of a crowd that most of the players have never seen before.  In 2013, despite the postseason ban, Penn State finished with the fifth highest attendance average in FBS college football at 96,587 fans per game.

Beaver Stadium is the second largest stadium in college football, with a capacity of 106,572, only trailing “The Big House,” Michigan Stadium. The Minutemen played their first FBS road game at Michigan in front of 110,187, the largest crowd UMass has ever played in front of.

Beaver Stadium is also ranked the fourth largest stadium of the world only trailing Rungrado May Day stadium in North Korea, Salt Lake Stadium in India, and Michigan Stadium.

“Playing in that stadium will be a pretty cool experience for us all and it’s something we’re all really excited about,” quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said.

Frohnapfel had some experience playing in front of large crowds during his career at Marshall.  He said at practice on Wednesday the big ones that came to mind were Lousiville, Purdue, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, but claims that Virginia Tech was the “rowdiest” crowd he’s ever seen.

“The main thing is, is to have fun.  Playing in front of 100,000 people, that’s a fun experience.  We can just enjoy it and keep playing because I think we’ll definitely have a shot in this game,” added Frohnapfel.

Whipple is no stranger to playing on the road in loud environments during stints at the University of Miami and with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  In order to simulate the sounds of the crowd, the Minutemen have been practicing with loud music blasting through the speakers at McGuirk.

In addition to practicing with loud noise, Whipple and Frohnapfel could exercise a silent snap count if hearing becomes an issue.  UMass had tossed the idea around last week at practice in preparation for playing at Vanderbilt, however this is the week that the offense might have to use that options given the expected turnout in State College.

“Playing in front of all those fans… I think this is going to be really fun,” Jovan Santos-Knox, linebacker, said with an ear-to-ear grin, looking like a kid on Christmas morning.

Kickoff from Beaver Stadium is set for 4 p.m. and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

 

Andrew Cyr can be reached at [email protected], and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.