Shadrach Abrokwah has career day in UMass football’s 36-14 win over Eastern Michigan.

By Andrew Cyr

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

When Shadrach Abrokwah walked into the post game press conference, he sported an ear-to-ear smile. He looked happier than a little kid seeing their presents on Christmas morning.

Abrokwah, the 5-foot-9, 202-pound “undersized” running back, finished with 135 rushing yards and four touchdowns in UMass’ 36-14 win over Eastern Michigan Saturday, both career highs.

“I mean, I thought I had a good game today,” Abrokwah said as he tried to hold back his grin.

Tajae Sharpe — who finished with a career high 193 receiving yards on 13 catches — echoed Abrokwah’s jubilance by adding, “that’s what you get from eating your Wheaties.”

When Abrokwah enrolled at UMass, Saturday’s game was all but an imagination. The Worcester native and product of St. John’s Shrewsbury high school walked onto the team prior to his freshmen season. The three-time power-lifting champion in Massachusetts didn’t even know if he would be on the roster.

“I mean I think about that all the time,” Abrokwah said when asked to reflect on his improvements from the calendar year. “I care more about how I can help this team in the future moving forward.”

Abrokwah earned a scholarship this past spring, following his 2013 campaign where he totaled for 203 rushing yards on 51 carries in the final two games of the season. It was after a “physical” practice in the spring that Whipple realized how important Abrokwah could be to his offense.

“He’s a compact, solid guy. He can hide behind our (linemen), accelerates, and is real tough to bring down. He’s gaining some confidence and I think he had a great day,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said.

Entering Saturday’s game against the Eagles, Abrokwah was uncertain about the status of his right shoulder, an injury in which he suffered last weekend in the Minutemen’s win over Kent State.

But once he entered the game, he simply “toughed it out.”

Abrokwah put the Minutemen on the scoreboard first with 10 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first quarter from 17 yards out after bouncing a run off left tackle. He was never touched.

Abrokwah also had touchdown runs from 16 yards and four yards respectfully in the first half as the UMass offense exploded for 30 points before heading into the locker room. The running back also had another 4-yard touchdown run with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, the last Minutemen score of the game.

“My whole (offensive) line makes me feel safe and protected, I just see the holes and I hit them,” said Abrokwah.

“Our guys up front have really taken pride in the running game,” Whipple said. It makes for a more solid offense when you have a balance like we had today.”

For quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, and for former UMass quarterbacks over the past three seasons, handing the ball off in the fourth quarter to kill time was something that rarely, if ever, happened. Instead, Frohnapfel has been used to frantically orchestrating last minute drives with zero timeouts just to get the Minutemen in a position to possibly win football games.

Saturday was different. After a dropped interception by Randall Jette with 10:53 remaining in the game, the Minutemen gained possession at their own 24-yard line. UMass ran the ball a total of 13 times, switching off between Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley. Although Woodley eventually fumbled on the Eastern Michigan 11-yardline the Minutemen had killed 7:28 off the game clock.

Earlier this week Whipple mentioned that he wanted to use both Woodley and Abrokwah as a one-two punch in the running game. After a 100-yard game against the Golden Flashes last week, Woodley finished with 63 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Woodley also had another 38-yard touchdown run that was called back for an illegal formation penalty.

When asked about sharing carries with Woodley, Abrokwah laughed saying “I’m happy because he keeps me out of the trainers room.”

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