Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football’s Sharpe continues his banner season in 36-14 win over Eastern Michigan

By Mark Chiarelli

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(Courtesy of Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Courtesy of Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)


Only a single scout from the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes was on hand to watch the Massachusetts football team host Eastern Michigan at Gillette Stadium Saturday.

But if UMass receiver Tajae Sharpe continues to produce like he did in the Minutemen’s 36-14 victory, scouts from the NFL may soon take notice as well.

Sharpe set a personal record with 193 receiving yards, his 13 receptions tied a career-high and his 1,676 career receiving yards currently places him ninth all-time at UMass. His 697 yards this season is already a season-high.

Oh, and by the way, Sharpe also passed former UMass and current New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz in career receptions Saturday, moving into fifth place in school history with 137 catches.

Earlier this season, UMass coach Mark Whipple tabbed Sharpe as the type of difference-maker who could make a lasting impact with the Minutemen and re-write records. And the receiver is backing that up.

“We try to move him around,” Whipple said following the 36-14 win.

“I think that’s his ability to play in different spots. Try to confuse them. He certainly made some big plays.”

He most certainly did.

UMass quarterback targeted Sharpe 17 times Saturday and completed 13 of those targets. Of those 13 completions, 12 of them resulted in first downs. Sharpe’s 193 receiving yards was fourth-highest in the country this week.

Sharpe worked against a variety of coverages and found success throughout the night. He displayed his entire skillset, working as a possession receiver across the middle and the sidelines. Sharpe hauled in a 42-yard reception in the second quarter which set up a 2-yard Lorenzo Woodley touchdown run. Sharpe ran a skinny post and was isolated in single coverage, and worked inside his defender before making a diving catch.

Eastern Michigan had no answer for the 6-foot-4 junior, and didn’t appear particularly adept at altering its gameplan to stop him.

“We had success running very similar plays there and they really didn’t make any adjustment until halftime,” Frohnapfel said.

“They came out and changed the coverage a little bit, similar to what Kent State did. Yet still, we were able to move the ball to him still. It’s nice having something like that.”

Frohnapfel was referring to last Saturday’s 40-17 victory over Kent State. The Golden Flashes made a significant effort to take Sharpe out of the game and held him to just two catches for 19 yards.

It was Sharpe’s least productive game this season – and the first time a defense specifically played to negate his impact.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Sharpe said of Eastern Michigan.

“Last week was the first time I’ve seen something like that. In practice, we just wanted to work extra hard and be prepared for anything the defense would have thrown at us.”

And in return, the Eagles weren’t prepared for what Frohnapfel threw at them. Sharpe said he saw that Eastern Michigan defensive backs show visible frustration.

“I saw them arguing sometimes after I made a catch,” Sharpe said with a smile. “That’s fun for me to see, that they’re struggling to defend our offense.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli

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