UMass football seeks second win of season against struggling Eastern Michigan defense

By Andrew Cyr

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Time is ticking for the Massachusetts football team and its seniors.

With only three games remaining on the schedule and 16 total days remaining in the 2015 season, UMass (1-8, 0-5 Mid-American Conference) finds its days outnumbered to turn what was supposed to be a promising season into a slight improvement from a year ago.

In order for the Minutemen to surpass its win total from 2014 (3-8), they would have to win their last three games against Eastern Michigan, Miami (OH) and Buffalo, starting with the Eagles (1-9, 0-6 MAC) Saturday.

UMass’ matchup against Eastern Michigan couldn’t have come at a better time for the Minutemen, who are currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak with their last and only win of the season coming against Florida International – which is one win away from being bowl eligible – on Oct. 3.

Having an offense that was supposed to be the driving force behind its success, UMass has failed to score more than 13 points in three out of its last four games. However, the Eagles have statistically one of the worst defenses in the entire country, ranking seventh to last in total defense and allowing an average of 520.9 total yards per game.

Eastern Michigan’s run defense ranks last in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 329.3 yards allowed per game and ranks in the bottom 10 in scoring defense (44.2 points per game) while boasting the fourth-worst turnover margin at -13.

“We aren’t really going to change our game plan, but it’s something you definitely notice on film,” quarterback Blake Frohnapfel said when asked if the Minutemen were going to run more against the Eagles. “It’s not something that we are focused on too much, but of course we are going to try to keep it balanced on offense.”

“We’re going to see how they play us, we’d like to run the ball better than we have,” UMass coach Mark Whipple added.

Last season against Eastern Michigan the Minutemen ran for 225 yards with Shadrach Abrokwah paving the way with 135 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries.

In addition to stopping the run, the Eagles have only accumulated only two interceptions on defense, something Frohnapfel will have to take advantage of.

“They have the same (defensive) coordinator, but they do some different things on defense from last year,” Frohnapfel said.

“Every team has played us different than what we’ve seen on tape, so we’ve had to make some adjustments,” Whipple added.

The Minutemen’s defense, which has only allowed 20 or more points in three of its last four games will have to prepare for running back Darius Jackson who has 13 rushing touchdowns and 941 yards. Shaq Vann adds another dimension to the run game with five touchdowns this year.

Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback has struggled with his accuracy with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12-to-11. Roback likes to spread the field to five different receivers with at least 25 receptions, with the 5-foot-7 Eddie Daugherty leading the charge (32 receptions, 509 yards and three touchdowns).

Whipple said it’s not a matter of practicing harder in order for UMass to get its second win of the season. Instead he said the Minutemen have to play harder in the games and not lose the one-on-one battles that plagued them against Akron last Saturday.

“Our preparation is not what’s lacking, it’s our play that has and that’s what I need to figure out this week. A little bit of it is opponents and a little bit of it is ourselves,” Whipple said. “We have to find a way to make plays in the fourth quarter and do a better job in the third quarter.”

Saturday’s game in Ypsilanti, Michigan begins at 3 p.m.

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