UMass football suffers another heartbreaking loss in unpredictable fashion Saturday vs. Temple

By Anthony Chiusano

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

FOXBOROUGH – The Massachusetts football team has found a number of ways to lose games over the past few years since its move to the Football Bowl Subdivision. In Saturday’s 25-23 loss to Temple, the Minutemen added to this interesting list.

Trailing 20-17 with less than two minutes left in regulation, Jamal Wilson turned a short screen pass into a 16-yard touchdown to hand UMass its first lead of the game. However, on the ensuing point after attempt, Blake Lucas was blocked at the line and the Owls’ Stephaun Marshall lateraled the loose ball to Will Hayes, who returned it to the opposite endzone for two points.

To make matters worse for the Minutemen, UMass center Matt Sparks was tagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to tack on 15 yards for Temple on the following kickoff.

After the unusual turn of events, the Owls completed a 10-play, 50-yard drive to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal from Austin Jones with 12 seconds remaining.

“It’s just football. You see it at all levels. I’m a lot more experienced with all those games in the NFL to think that crazy things can happen,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said following the game.

For Minutemen quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, the loss felt all too familiar. UMass has faced many high-profile programs in the past and played good enough to remain competitive but in the end, many times after unpredictable circumstances, it wasn’t enough to clinch a victory. Just last season, the Minutemen blew consecutive 11-point second half leads against Colorado and Vanderbilt.

“Obviously it feels like déjà vu a little bit. With those situations, it’s unbelievable how it unfolds,” Frohnapfel said. “We said that, later in this year, we’ll have these same situations happen. It’s going to happen. Next time, we’ll take care of it.”

Frohnapfel added: “We score a touchdown and you think you’ve won the game, but you have to keep pressing on because there’s a minute left. You have to finish that game.”

The Minutemen (0-2) hung in with the Owls (3-0) – the No. 26 team in the nation – despite committing 12 penalties and not looking fully in-sync on offense. Surprisingly, it was UMass’ defense that stood strong behind three forced turnovers and some key third down stops.

But with the focus being on not allowing any deep balls on the final, deciding drive of the game by the Owls’ offense, Temple scraped its way into field goal position.

“It’s very tough when they’re throwing quick outs and stuff like that,” Minutemen defensive back Kelton Brackett said. “You just got to be prepared for it.”

In his second game for UMass, Brackett finished with six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. The senior, who transferred from Alabama Birmingham following the program’s temporary disband this past summer, said he’s never experienced an ending like Saturday’s loss.

“This is the first game I had like this,” Brackett said. “To put so much into it and to have a score like that, it does take a toll out of us.”

Sharpe reaches first milestone

Overshadowed by the heartbreaking conclusion to Saturday’s game was the performance of UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, who finished with 11 catches for 156 yards.

On his final reception for the day, Sharpe surpassed Adrian Zullo for most career catches in program history (188).

“It’s an honor and a privilege to go down in the UMass history books,” Sharpe said. “I give all the credit first off to coach Whipple, he’s a great offensive-minded coach and he puts me in position to get the ball and things like that. And also to my quarterback and my whole offense, and for Blake (Frohnapfel) for getting me the ball. And even my defense going out and getting stops so I can have a chance to make plays for this team.”

Sharpe added: “It’s an honor and a privilege, but all that really doesn’t matter if we don’t come out with the win. We have to find a way to come out on top.”

The career reception mark is not the only milestone Sharpe is expected to reach in his final season with the Minutemen. He also now trails Zullo by 431 receiving yards for most in program history.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.
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