Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football looks to translate ‘energy’ into Senior Day success vs. Miami (OH)

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(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Shooting for four wins may be well below the Massachusetts football team’s original goal entering the 2015 season, but with two games remaining and a chance to surpass last year’s 3-9 record, that’s the new benchmark for the Minutemen.

“I’m just trying to finish off the end of the year with wins,” senior Trey Dudley-Giles said Wednesday night. “I’m a senior so I’m just trying to get something to look back at. I’d love to go out with two (more) wins.”

UMass (2-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) hosts Miami (OH) Saturday at McGuirk Stadium on Senior Day. The Minutemen beat Eastern Michigan last week, snapping a five-game losing streak that dated back to early October. According to Minutemen coach Mark Whipple, the victory has jumpstarted UMass in this week’s preparation, which has included a couple of lively, “energetic” practices.

“We just have to build off the momentum we gained last week. We’re glad to be back home,” Whipple said. “We’ve got good energy this week and that’s great to see.”

“It’s just trying to get guys going,” Dudley-Giles said Wednesday. “We really haven’t closed out games like we should have so we’re just trying to get guys going and getting that mentality about getting the ball out or sealing the game with a turnover or anything like that.”

Dudley-Giles is one of many key senior contributors set to play in their last game on campus at McGuirk Stadium. He recalled playing at the home stadium his freshman year – before its two seasons of renovation – and withstanding all the “bumps and bruises” that came over his time at UMass.

“It would feel nice to finish it here with a win,” Dudley-Giles said.

Whipple acknowledged the long-lasting impact that Saturday’s game will have on the core group of seniors.

“I think it’s big for them for the rest of their lives when they come back here and kind of always remember the last game they played at (McGuirk Stadium),” he said. “We couldn’t get it done at Gillette a couple weeks ago (against Akron), so hopefully we can find a way this week.”

Coming off a win over the Eagles, UMass will take on another struggling MAC opponent in the RedHawks (2-9, 1-6 MAC). Miami’s only win since its season opener against Presbyterian came against Eastern Michigan Nov. 7.

Behind the RedHawks’ struggles is an offensive unit that ranks 12th out of 13th in points per games (17.7) within the conference. Miami has utilized three different quarterbacks this season in Billy Bahl (86-of-197), Drew Kummer (59-of-123) and Gus Ragland (20-of-29).

Ragland has already been ruled out Saturday due to an injury suffered last week against Akron, but Whipple said having to prepare for two different threats at quarterback adds an extra dimension to the Minutemen’s defensive game plan.

“Both of them are really talented players, both big guys that can both run it and throw it,” Whipple said. “Kummer’s got some experience and they put him in at the end of the game, the end of the half. They’re pretty well-set.”

For UMass, it’s coming off a game in which it rushed for 330 total rushing yards, led by freshman Marquis Young’s 168 yards on the ground.

In the 28-17 victory, Young earned a career-high 32 carries, more than doubling his previous mark set the week before against Akron (15). Whipple said he’s becoming more comfortable increasing the freshman’s workload.

“I think he’s practiced really well and he’s been healthy so he got a lot more reps and I feel a lot better about him running the ball inside and outside,” Whipple said. He understands the offense, he’s much better in protection and he’s becoming a more all-around back.”

On defense, the statuses of senior defensive backs Kelton Brackett and Randall Jette remain unclear for Saturday. Brackett has missed time with a shoulder injury and last played on Oct. 31 at Ball State. Jette missed last Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

Whipple said that decisions on their availability will be determined later in the week. Dudley-Giles added that he would feel comfortable with Jordin Hamilton, Jesse Monteiro and Zeke Edmonds filling in at cornerback if one or either of the two cannot play.

“They made plays last week, they tackled and did everything they can ask for guys who really haven’t played too much this season,” he said. “I would trust these guys, and I would have no choice but to trust them because we’re running low on bodies.”

Saturday’s game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

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

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