Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football drops fifth straight against Akron at Gillette Stadium

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

FOXBOROUGH –– As disastrous as the Massachusetts football team played Saturday, it still found itself in a position to win its second game of the season with one minute, 52 seconds remaining and 80 yards to go downfield.

UMass (1-8, 0-5 Mid-American Conference) had the ball right where it wanted it in the hands of quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, but the result was the same as it’s always been throughout the 2015 season – close, but not enough.

With both Rodney Mills and Tajae Sharpe double-covered on the play, Frohnapfel tried to force it to former baseball player Dan Jonah, only to have his pass intercepted by DeAndre Scott to secure the 17-13 win for Akron at Gillette Stadium.

“I just left the ball too far inside,” said Frohnapfel, who finished 19-for-43 (44 percent) for 173 yards and two interceptions.

The Minutemen were lucky to even be in position to muster a game-winning drive as they accounted for just 100 yards of total offense and nine first downs in the second half. Saturday marked the seventh time in nine games that UMass did not score in the third quarter and it has been outscored 112-21 by opponents in the quarter after returning from the locker room.

“When they can rush the passer and play coverage with seven, that’s always what you’re worried about,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said about the struggles in the second half. “(Frohnapfel) didn’t have a lot of time. He got hit on every one.”

The Zips (4-5, 2-3 MAC) took a 14-13 with 8:54 remaining in the third quarter when quarterback Thomas Woodson ran it into the end zone himself from 15 yards out, carrying UMass defenders with him as he struggled for the final five yards.

Akron kicker Robert Stein added a 36-yard field goal with 5:43 left to extend its lead to 17-13.

“It’s just miscues. We had our chances and for the most part, we couldn’t capitalize. There were too many untimely penalties that really hurt us. That’s been the case these couple weeks throughout the season,” Rodney Mills said.

“At the end of the day, we had a chance to win and untimely mistakes and penalties, but nobody was there to make a play for us. At the end of the day we came up short,” Mills added.

The Minutemen took a 13-7 lead entering halftime after Logan Laurent made a pair of field goals from 36 and 40 yards. Their lone touchdown came in the first quarter when they ran the ball with Jamal Wilson, who punched it in from nine yards out to give UMass a 7-0 lead.

All three of the Minutemen’s scoring drives came when it started in Zips territory.

“It was a good, hard-fought football game. I figured it would come down to that. Those guys beat us in some one-on-one matchups. We had a couple guys open, we just couldn’t get the ball out. They were just one play better than us,” Whipple said.

“There’s no one person to blame. There’s no one person you could say that didn’t win their matchup,” Mills added. “For some reason, we just have to find a way to finally get all 11 players on the same page.”

Woodson’s (15-of-27, 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) lone passing touchdown came with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter when he hit Austin Wolf from 27 yards out.

UMass finished with a net total of 88 rushing yards, 52 of which came on 15 carries from Marquis Young. Tajae Sharpe, who finished with seven receptions for 53 yards, set the single-season UMass receptions record (93) passing Jimmy Moore.

Although the record doesn’t indicate it, the Minutemen believe that this year’s team is better than it was a season ago.

“I don’t even think in my freshman year we could stay in half of the games we’re in now. It’s not them beating us. It’s usually us shooting ourselves in the foot,” Jovan Santos-Knox said. “Once we cut down on the untimely mistakes, turnovers and penalties, we’ll take off. If we don’t address it or fix the problem, we’ll keep taking (losses).”

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

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