UMass football overpowered in MAC opener against Bowling Green

By Anthony Chiusano

Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian
Alec Zabrecky/Daily Collegian

BOWLING GREEN, OHIO – In a rematch of last year’s 47-42 homecoming shootout loss at McGuirk Stadium, the Massachusetts football team couldn’t keep pace this time with two-time defending Mid-American Conference East champion Bowling Green.

The Minutemen (1-4, 0-1 Mid-American Conference) were overpowered by Bowling Green’s high-powered offense and its 725 total yards Saturday in a 62-38 loss at Doyt Perry Stadium.

In a game that UMass saw as an opportunity to make a statement early in its conference schedule, Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said “bad play calling and bad execution” resulted in a score that quickly got away. The Falcons scored on seven straight drives at one point.

“We practiced good, we came ready for the big game. We didn’t play as good as we needed to play,” Whipple said. “We didn’t answer (Bowling Green’s offense).”

Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson, the nation’s leading passer, finished with 450 yards and five touchdowns on 33-of-39 passes before being relieved in the fourth quarter with Bowling Green safely ahead 59-31. Saturday marked Johnson’s fifth 400-yard game in the Falcon’s first six games of 2015.

UMass remained within striking distance throughout the first half, as a touchdown pass from Blake Frohnapfel to Tajae Sharpe shrunk the Falcons’ lead to 28-17 with two minutes, 57 seconds left in the second quarter. An interception from Kelton Brackett on Bowling Green’s ensuing drive appeared to give the Minutemen a glimpse of momentum with the team receiving to start the second half.

But UMass’ opening drive in the second half came to an abrupt halt after a turnover on downs at the Minutemen’s own 45-yard line. Frohnapfel, lined up with an empty backfield, attempted to find senior Elgin Long on fourth and one but couldn’t convert.

“It was man coverage and I probably should have went left and I made a mistake on the read. I was probably thinking a little too much there and probably should have went to Tajae or something like that,” Frohnapfel said. “You don’t want to get stopped there. We moved the ball a little bit in places but that’s a bad read on a situation like that.”

Frohnapfel finished 34-of-56 with 409 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception Saturday. His one turnover came on the opening drive of the second quarter with goal to go on a third down passing play. Frohnapfel rolled right and tried to find Marken Michel on the crossing route, but Alfonso Mack stepped up and recorded the interception.

The play came with UMass looking to cut into Bowling Green’s early 14-10 lead.

After the game, Frohnapfel said the bad decision was possibly one example of added pressure applied in trying to keep up with Bowling Green’s offense.

“That’s the kind of situation you are thinking it’s third down and I really don’t want to get a field goal here,” Frohnapfel said. “I made a throw I probably shouldn’t have made, we should have taken the field goal there but in a game like that we were down a couple touchdowns, you’re making those throws where you normally wouldn’t have thrown it but because of the nature of the game and what the score was.

“I was trying to run, and our guy kind of flashed in the back of the end zone,” he added. “They just closed a lot faster than I thought they were going to. They made a good play, credit to them.”

On defense, Saturday’s performance marked the second time this season it allowed 62 points – UMass lost to Notre Dame 62-27 two weeks ago. Coming off a positive performance against FIU last weekend, Whipple said finding consistency on defense continues to be an issue moving forward.

“It’s certainly a concern. We were bad against Colorado, we were good against Temple, bad (against Notre Dame), good (against Florida International), bad (at Bowling Green),” Whipple said. “So I guess next week we’ll be good.”

UMass returns home next weekend for its homecoming game against Kent State at McGuirk Stadium.

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