Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football defeats Florida International at McGuirk Stadium for first win of 2015

Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian
Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian


Despite what the final stat sheet says, Saturday’s performance for the Massachusetts football team looked a lot like the color of its new alternate uniforms – gray.

But it was enough.

UMass (1-3) wrapped up its nonconference schedule with a 24-14 win over Florida International in a penalty-filled frenzy in the first game back at McGuirk Stadium in 2015. Saturday’s win was also the first nonconference victory for the Minutemen since they made the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The two teams combined for 20 penalties resulting in a total of 183 yards. Both UMass and the Panthers (2-3, 0-1 Conference USA) each had 10 penalties, but it was Florida International who suffered the worst of it (110 penalty yards) compared to the Minutemen’s 72 yards.

Although both UMass coach Mark Whipple and his players acknowledged there was plenty to clean up, getting the first win of the season was enough to negate all of the miscues and mistakes the Minutemen made throughout the day.

“Words can’t even put it into perspective how I feel,” UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe said. “I’m still trying to live in the moment and enjoy this win. It just feels so great, all this hard work, it just all sinked in.”

“It was a good day for us, Whipple added. “Coach (Tom) Masella and the defensive staff did a really good job. The kids really battled all week in practice. They put a great plan together and most importantly the kids really executed it. So it was a good win for us.”

With defensive tackles Sha-Ki Holines and Robert Kitching out due to injuries, the Minutemen were forced to move defensive end Peter Angeh to nose tackle while Enock Asante made the start in replacement of Holines.

Asante, making his first career start for the Minutemen, finished with a pair of tackles while the undersized Angeh recorded a third-down sack for a loss of seven yards for his lone tackle of the day.

“Those guys have nothing put heart. I’ve said it, these guys are tremendous players and they fight every single play,” senior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox said. “They might be undersized but you can’t test someone’s heart by just looking at them. These guys fought very hard the entire game and everyone had a great game.”

Reserve linebacker John Robinson-Woodgett led the Minutemen with nine total tackles. He also recorded a sack and was a key component of UMass’ front seven that used a series of blitzes and schemes to put pressure on FIU and disrupt quarterback Alex McGough, who finished 22-of-34 for 115 yards and a touchdown.

The Panthers’ 188 yards of total offense was the least amount the Minutemen have allowed this season.

UMass put the final nail in the coffin with seven minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the game when quarterback Blake Frohnapfel (32-of-42, 363 passing yards and three touchdowns) placed a perfectly executed pass to Marken Michel in the back-right corner of the end zone from five yards out.

Michel (113) was one of two UMass receivers with over 100 receiving yards on the day, with Sharpe notching 159 yards and a touchdown on 15 receptions – the latter which was a school record.

Michel’s first touchdown came on a 57-yard post with 10:29 left in the first quarter to give UMass an initial 7-0 lead. Sharpe’s score came with 9:28 remaining in the second quarter when Frohnapfel rolled out to his left before finding his top receiver from six-yards out to make it 14-0.

FIU’s Thomas Owens scored on a one-yard fade over cornerback Randall Jette to cut the deficit to 14-7. The Panthers again made it a single-possession game with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a one-yard run from Alex Gardner.

Following Owens’ touchdown, UMass drove 39 yards on nine plays to set up a Logan Laurent 48-yard field goal to give it a 17-7 lead heading into halftime. Laurent, who was named starting placekicker on Friday, had his first attempt blocked from 19 yards out.

“It was great to be in that locker room down there when everyone is so excited,” Frohnapfel said. “That’s the reason why you play football. Moments like that, the atmosphere, because winning is a lot of fun.”

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


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