Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football aims for second win of 2015 against Ball State

By Anthony Chiusano

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Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

Needing to run the table to reach a .500 record for the season, the Massachusetts football team has essentially moved past its most difficult part of its schedule that featured numerous blown opportunities and second half breakdowns.

With their final five games coming against Mid-American Conference teams all boasting losing records, the Minutemen (1-6, 0-3 MAC) now look to save their season by eliminating their second half mistakes and piecing together a consistent performance against bottom level conference opponents.

“We’ve run into a little bit of a buzzsaw, we played a bunch of good halves so we just have to look for that 60-minute game,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said after Tuesday’s practice.

UMass begins the last portion of its schedule against Ball State (2-6, 1-3 MAC), who the Minutemen defeated 24-10 last year at McGuirk Stadium.

The Cardinals return a trio of top targets on offense in 2014 MAC second team receiver Jordan Williams (52 catches, 693 yards, five touchdowns), 2014 MAC third team receiver KeVonn Mabon (43 catches, 386 yards, one touchdown) and sophomore Corey Lacanaria (39 catches, 319 yards, two touchdowns).

They accompany true freshman quarterback Riley Neal, who boasts an 11-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio after beating out 2014 starter Jack Milas for the starting job.

“Their quarterback has really grown up. He’s a big kid who can really throw it,” Whipple said of Neal. “They’ve played a lot of good teams and they’re right there. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, we’re kind of similar. They’re just a tough, resilient group.”

Neal’s counterpart, UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, will face Ball State for the first time since suffering a season-ending leg injury in last year’s Nov. 12 victory. According to him, however, he doesn’t think Saturday’s matchup has any added meaning.

“I don’t really think about it that way. It’s just the next challenge for us and our next chance to win,” Frohnapfel said. “It’s the same (defensive) coordinator so you see a lot of things they did against our personnel formationally. In terms of me actually watching the injury and when it happened, I usually don’t watch that part.”

Frohnapfel, who dropped back 56 times in last Saturday’s loss to Toledo, is figured to be the focal point once again against the Cardinals’ last-ranked passing defense in the MAC.     He acknowledged the offensive line’s play last week against the Rockets – he was sacked only once – will be key once again.

“Toledo had a great front four and we knew going in it would be a challenge for (the offensive line),” Frohnapfel said. “They definitely responded to it and kept me upright. That’s something that, with a veteran group like that, you expect that.”

Sekai Lindsay done for the season

The Minutemen’s running game took a substantial hit with the announcement that freshman running back Sekai Lindsay will be out for the remainder of the year after being carted off the field last weekend in the second half.

Whipple said Tuesday that Lindsay would have surgery on his ankle.

In six games played, the freshman rushed for 114 yards on 34 carries with one touchdown. He was the third-leading rusher behind fellow freshman Marquis Young and senior Jamal Wilson.

“The loss of Sekai is huge,” said Wilson, who’s started six of UMass’ seven games in the backfield. “He’s a tough guy, runs hard and he’s decisive. He’s not making any unnecessary cuts.”

While Wilson and Young will continue to earn the brunt of the Minutemen’s carries, as the unit tries to find more consistency and balance, Whipple added that juniors Shadrach Abrokwah and Lorenzo Woodley would play a bigger role in the offense.

“We don’t want to see Sekai get hurt, he was really starting to feel good,” Whipple said. “But the other guys have been solid and have been good throughout.”

Saturday’s game in Muncie, Indiana will kick off at 1 p.m.

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

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