Cyr: Despite awful start, don’t press the panic button on UMass football

By Andrew Cyr

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

 

Well, week one certainly didn’t go as planned for the Massachusetts football team.

Over the course of the first quarter, Saturday’s game looked similar to last year’s game against Colorado. And tied at 14 in the second quarter, it looked like the Minutemen and Buffaloes would be destined for another down-to-the-wire game. It would have been a statement if UMass had held on.

Then at 10 minutes, 29 seconds in the second quarter, the floodgates opened up as Colorado’s Michael Adkins broke open a 21-yard touchdown run breaking the 14-14 tie. That’s when the Minutemen fell into a crashing downward spiral, allowing 34 unanswered points and a total of 404 rushing yards in a 48-14 shellacking in their opening game.

“They ran the ball. We didn’t run the ball. We didn’t have anyone play good. The coaching staff did a bad job. We didn’t make any plays either side of the ball,” UMass coach Mark Whipple told reporters following the loss.

“It was poor preparation by the coaching staff. Myself, everybody. They hit us in the mouth and we never responded. That was disappointing,” he added.

We in the media deserve a small portion of the blame. Maybe we hyped up this UMass team a little too much. Maybe it isn’t as good as we initially thought it would be. Sure, the defense was non-existent, but scoring 14 points with this offense isn’t exactly the recipe to win football games either.

“We learned a lot about ourselves,” said Blake Frohnapfel, who finished with 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception. “Coming in with high hopes, we were probably thinking we’re a little better than what we are. We’ve got to learn from that.”

But don’t worry Minutemen fans – there is good news to deliver.

Despite how terribly UMass played against the Buffs, it’s still much too early in the season to give up hope on this team. By no means should anyone even consider writing them off after one game. Heck, look at the 2014 New England Patriots. It took it four weeks to figure itself out and still walked away with the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season.

This stuff takes time. As much as we want to see the dramatic changes and surprises right now, it’s going to be a slow­ – but hopefully not too slow – process.

Football is unlike any other sport. No sport requires a team to focus and live on a week-to-week basis the way football does. While I’m sure the sour taste will still linger in the Minutemen’s mouth, Colorado means nothing anymore. The focus is now on Temple, and nothing but Temple.

How about the Owls though? Talk about one of college football’s biggest surprises of the 2015 season after upsets over Penn State and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks. Their defense will certainly give Whipple and Frohnapfel some fits. Temple held Penn State and future NFL quarterback Christian Hackenberg to 103 yards and an interception on 25 attempts, and sacked him 10 times.

The road ahead by no means gets any easier for UMass. With the Owls at home (Gillette) on Saturday and a trip to Notre Dame the following week, the potential of a 0-3 start is certainly looking more and more like a realistic possibility.

But anyone who has even considered the thought of pressing the giant red panic button should strongly rethink their motives. It’s still the middle of September and the season won’t conclude until after our Thanksgiving turkeys are fully digested.

Whipple is an incredibly smart football coach. He’ll figure this team out.

So for now Minutemen fans, I’m not accusing anyone of abandoning ship just yet. But let’s just all take a deep breath and remember not to worry too much.

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