Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football looks for third straight win against Toledo on Saturday

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(Cade Belisle/The Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/The Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

At the beginning of the season, winning three games would be a major improvement for the Massachusetts football team. Now after winning back-to-back games, the Minutemen have the opportunity to not only win its third game, but to make it a three-game winning streak.

Although wins against Kent State and Eastern Michigan were important for the confidence of UMass, this Saturday’s matchup against Mid American Conference West leader Toledo will be a completely different challenge for the Minutemen.

“They’re the best team in the MAC with all the talent they have across the board,” quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said. “Everyone is ready to go. We have a chance to go on the road and show everyone that our team’s for real is really exciting for all of us.”

The Rockets enter Saturday’s matchup having won all three of their games in conference play, finding a lot their success running the ball. Toledo uses a series of three running backs, all three of which having different styles of play.

“We know they’re going to try and pound the ball against us. They have three good backs and all of them pack a different punch. They have a scat back, a power back and one in between, so we’ll have to be ready for all three,” outside linebacker Trey Seals said.

The Rockets average 241.7 rushing yards per game this season, which is good for second in the MAC and 19th in the FBS. Leading the charge has been Kareem Hunt who’s run for 527 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Hunt has missed three games this season with a high ankle sprain, but after a bye week, the sophomore is expected to make his return against UMass. However, Toledo head coach Matt Campbell said in his weekly MAC coaches teleconference that he wouldn’t know about Hunt’s status until later this week.

Terry Swanson and Damion Jones-Moore are the other two driving forces behind the rockets running game this season. Swanson has run for 489 rushing yards and four touchdowns while Jones-Moore has added 288 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“We aren’t going to change our schemes too much. They’re all good and they’re pretty hard to distinguish. Hunt’s really special. Not that the other guys aren’t really good, but the difference us when he gets in the second level,” head coach Mark Whipple said.

Although it’s been the three-headed monster of Hunt, Swanson and Jones-Moore, it’s been the five offensive linemen that have been the foundation of Toledo’s run game. All five linemen are seniors with the average size of 6-feet-5 inches, 298-pounds.

Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo knows exactly what kind of challenge his team is up against this week.

“This is by far the best offensive line we’ve faced all season,” he said. “They’re very experienced and very good. You can tell they’ve been playing together for a long time and we have and we’re really going to have our hands full this week.”

Offensively, the Minutemen will look to continue the same success they had in the first three quarters of their win last Saturday against the Eagles. In the fourth quarter UMass turned the ball over three separate times in the final 15 minutes resulting in zero points.

With both Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley coming off big performances last week, expect the same one-two punch from Whipple in the backfield. Whipple confirmed earlier this week that J.T. Blyden has missed the past two games with a concussion and has been practicing in pads this week.

Kickoff from Glass Stadium will be at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.com.

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

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