Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass football seeking statement win against Charlotte

Minutemen trying to salvage season

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Ryan Ames, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Massachusetts football team needs a win.

Losers of three straight, a UMass (1-3) win this weekend against Charlotte would go a long way toward keeping its goal of qualifying for a bowl game within reach.

There’s no other way around it.

The Minutemen must find a way to put this disastrous three-game stretch behind them or risk falling to 1-4, bringing about an uncomfortable and unlikely scenario in which it needs to win at least six of its last seven games just for a chance to receive a bowl game bid.

UMass hopes to take care of business against the 49ers (2-1, 1-0 Conference USA) at McGuirk Alumni Stadium this Saturday.

“We’ve missed on some big plays the last two weeks so when they’re there, we got to make the play,” coach Mark Whipple said on adjustments he’d like to see offensively. “Really offensively, I thought we ran the ball pretty well… we got to catch the ball better, we still had five drops, crucial drops on a couple big ones.”

Senior quarterbacks Andrew Ford and Ross Comis each left the game against the Panthers with injuries. On Monday, Whipple said “they’re (both) better,” but wouldn’t dive into specifics.

Redshirt junior quarterback Michael Curtis assumed the role as starter and did the best he could given the circumstances, throwing for 158 yards and one touchdown, along with one rushing touchdown and two interceptions.

“There was a lot of stuff we left out there and even that we left out in the Georgia Southern week and the BC week,” Curtis said about the offensive struggles. “We no doubt have the players. Guys on the outside, inside, quarterbacks, running backs, everybody just has to make plays like we’ve been doing all spring, all fall camp, that we know we can do. (We) just have to go out and execute.”

The recent results have taken a toll on the Minutemen locker room. Curtis admitted everyone is “a little down,” but the Richardson, Texas native quickly added that is by no means a sign the group is throwing in the towel.

“Our back is against the wall,” said Curtis. “If we want to prove that we are the great team that we’ve been saying all year, that we’ve been building towards all year and that we know we are, we have to go and prove it. Everyone’s fired up. There wasn’t a lot of talking (Monday), just a lot of action, that’s what we need.”

While UMass did lose its top two play-callers Saturday, the defense didn’t do any favors, surrendering a season-high 63 points to FIU.

Should the Minutemen turn their season around, improvement on the defensive side will almost certainly be the driving force behind the resurgence.

“Tackling’s a big thing,” said Whipple on the troubles he’s noticed defensively. “It wasn’t one guy, it was guys missing tackles and the other guys got out of gaps. We just got to get better, just got to keep practicing.”

Charlotte is led by quarterback Chris Reynolds, who has completed 63 percent of his passes through three games, wide receiver Victor Tucker and linebacker Juwan Foggie, who has a team-high two interceptions thus far.

UMass can’t afford another disappointing weekend of football and the mood around the team appears to echo that sentiment: the Minutemen just need a win.

“Getting set back again this (past) weekend, we know that this (game against Charlotte) is a must-win for us,” Curtis said. “Last season we went 0-6 before we turned that around and you could just see that it catalyzed a quick four wins. We think we want to get that same thing because bowl games, that’s still the vision. Obviously, we take it week by week, but that is still our end goal and this has to be one of the games we have to win if that is going to be something we’re going to achieve.”

Ryan Ames can be reached at [email protected] or on [email protected]_RyanAmes.

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