Rushing attack leads UMass football to second win of season against Eastern Michigan

By Andrew Cyr

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts football team followed the same blueprint Saturday that the 10 previous opponents Eastern Michigan has faced this season created – run the football.

UMass (2-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) used the ground attack to propel its struggling offense in a 28-17 win behind a 330-rushing yard performance against the Eagles (1-10, 0-7 MAC) Saturday in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Marquis Young and Jamal Wilson each shared rushing duties for the Minutemen as Young finished with 168 rushing yards and a touchdown while Wilson added another 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Both of Wilson’s scores came from one yard out in the second half, with the second coming with 13 minutes, three seconds remaining to put the game out of reach and give UMass a 28-10 lead.

Young’s two-yard touchdown run capped off a 10-play, 77-yard drive in the first quarter giving the Minutemen 7-3 lead after Eastern Michigan had jumped out to an early 3-0 lead behind a 51-yard field goal from Dylan Mulder.

“With the combination of those two and really the offensive line, with either of those guys in, they were hitting the holes hard and had big holes to run through. Both of those guys were making the extra guy miss and that really made the different,” quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said.

“We talked to the offensive line because we were just off on some of the plays last week,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “We had to take it up a notch and the guys did today up front and gave (Wilson and Young) some room. They had a really good day, it was a nice one-two punch.”

UMass led for the final 52:18 after Young’s touchdown.

“He’s been phenomenal,” Wilson said about the freshman Young. “He’s been getting a lot of playing time out there. He’s got great speed and can hit the big play at any time. I’ve been showing him different ways and different keys to make the reads easier for him. He’s been doing pretty well with it.”

The Minutemen’s 57 carriers were by far the most they have had as a team this season, surpassing their previous clip of 37 attempts against Bowling Green. Young’s 168-yard performance was also a season-high for a UMass rusher, breaking his own mark of 103 yards he against Notre Dame earlier this season.

Frohnapfel finished with a season-low 20 passing attempts after averaging 44 attempts per game entering Saturday. He finished 10-of-20 with 109 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. His lone touchdown was on a 39-yard pass to Tajae Sharpe that gave the Minutemen a 14-3 lead less than one minute into the second quarter.

Frohnapfel’s interception came in the end zone that was set up by a 43-yard run from wide receiver Elgin Long with UMass threatening to take a 21-3 lead.

Eastern Michigan answered by driving 80 yards on the ensuing drive that ended in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brogan Roback (26-of-42, 260 passing yards and two touchdowns) to Eric Daugherty.

The Eagles’ only other touchdown came with 2:58 remaining in the game with the Minutemen playing a soft zone, prevention defense.

UMass’ defense held the Eastern Michigan offense to just 59 rushing yards on 26 carries. Its leading rusher Darius Jackson finished with just 55 yards on 15 carries for the Eagles.

Eastern Michigan’s best chance to regain the lead came when it was driving at the end of the second quarter before cornerback Jordin Hamilton forced a fumbled that Jesse Monteiro quickly recovered.

Whipple was fairly straightforward with his reasoning behind the Minutemen getting their second win of the season. And it came because they played a complete football game.

“We finally played four quarters,” Whipple said.

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