UMass football loses fourth straight, guarantees fourth straight losing season

By Anthony Chiusano

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

Last Wednesday, Massachusetts senior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox suggested UMass’ first road trip since Oct. 10 would serve as a refreshing change of scenery for the Minutemen, who suffered two crushing defeats in their last two games played at home.

But UMass’ season-long problems followed the team to Muncie, Indiana in the Minutemen’s 20-10 loss to Ball State Saturday afternoon.

The loss, UMass’ fourth in a row, eliminates the Minutemen (1-7, 0-4 Mid-American Conference) from a bowl game invite, a lofty goal that was expressed by the team all through summer camp. This season will be the Minutemen’s fourth consecutive losing season since entering the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

“It’s another one of those bad movies,” UMass defensive back Randall Jette said after the loss. “We were a couple of plays short. We had opportunities to make those plays but again, we were a couple plays short.”

The turning point Saturday, according to UMass coach Mark Whipple, came early in the fourth quarter with the Minutemen offense driving and trying to cut into Ball State’s 20-10 lead following a forced fumble was recovered by the UMass defense.

After going 13 plays for 73 yards to set up a second down play at the Cardinals’ six-yard line, Minutemen quarterback Blake Frohnapfel was intercepted by Ball State’s Ben Ingle. The turnover marked Frohnapfel’s fourth interception in the end zone this season.

“I probably got a little too greedy,” Frohnapfel said. “I was in the right spot, I just didn’t throw the right ball on that type of play.”

The Minutemen never led Saturday’s contest as the Cardinals (3-6, 2-3 MAC) opened up a 10-0 lead through the second quarter of a first half defensive battle.

After a Logan Laurent field goal put UMass on the scoreboard to trim Ball State’s lead to 10-3 at halftime, the Cardinals’ Darian Green took the ensuing kickoff out of the break 85 yards to set up another Ball State touchdown.

“The kickoff was really disappointing in the beginning of the second half,” Whipple said. “I thought we had good energy in the locker room but all of a sudden, there they go.”

Frohnapfel finished 32-of-44 for 259 passing yards and one interception. Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe added 11 receptions for 83 yards while the tandem of Jamal Wilson and Marquis Young added a combined 133 rushing yards.

But UMass’ offense was slowed by poor execution on third (10-of-18) and fourth down (0-of-2) opportunities where dropped catches halted numerous drives.

“We didn’t make the plays on third and fourth down,” Whipple said. “We dropped two balls that were first downs in the first half. But credit Ball State, they did a good job.

“It was (Ball State’s) day today.”

The Cardinals were led by true freshman quarterback Riley Neal, who went 20-of-32 for 275 yards and one touchdown. His top target was KeVonn Mabon, who caught six balls for 150 yards Saturday.

The Minutemen will return home for their next game looking for their second win of the season and first in conference play against Akron (3-5, 0-4 MAC). The game will be played at Gillette Stadium.

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