Ed Pinkham set to lead UMass against South Florida

Second year defensive coordinator is acting coach after Whipple’s suspension

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(Caroline O’Connor/UMass Athletics)

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

As the Massachusetts football team prepares to take on South Florida, it is doing so under new leadership.

With head coach Mark Whipple suspended for one week, defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham is the acting head coach, and will look to get the Minutemen back into the win column against the undefeated Bulls (4-0) Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“It’s a little bit different when you’re the head coach,” Pinkham said. “All those tough decisions, do you go for it on fourth down, do you go for two, do you punt, what do you do? Those are things you don’t worry yourself with when you’re the coordinator, either offensively or defensively, that’s usually the head coach that makes those decisions. That was a new experience.”

One of the reasons that Pinkham was selected to run the Minutemen (2-4) was due to his experience as an interim head coach. While he was the defensive coordinator at Elon, head coach Jason Swepson suffered a mild heart attack two days before a game, forcing him to miss the contest. Pinkham stepped in and led the team, so this isn’t the first time he has been called into action.

Thankfully for Pinkham, he has had a full week to prepare the team, not just a few nights like he did at Elon. Taking over for a team that has been struggling this season, Pinkham is focusing on trying to get the team to work extra hard during the week in order to take a step forward and get wins on Saturdays.

“Our kids are very resilient,” Pinkham said. “They had a lot of energy, they worked very hard at practice yesterday, we talked a little bit about what it takes to get over the hump. If you can continue to do and prepare the way that you’ve prepared, you’re probably going to get those same results, so how can each one of us coaches, players all take a step forward on improving the way in which we prepare for each game.”

With all the controversy surrounding the team, Pinkham must keep the team’s focus on the task at hand, South Florida. The situation with Whipple was addressed, and the goal is to put that in the rear-view mirror and prepare for an explosive and dangerous South Florida team.

“We addressed it and the way we approached it was to say there is nothing that is within our control,” Pinkham said. “Let’s focus on the things we can control and as I mentioned a minute ago, the things we can control is the intensity in which we practice. It’s going to be important if we’re going to give ourselves the best chance for victory, we can’t waste a day. We have to go in and we can’t be sulking, we can’t be distracted, we have to go in and have a high energy day.”

One of UMass’ deficiencies this season has been its defense, which has allowed the fifth-most points per game in the FBS this season. Pinkham, who leads the defense, expects to have most of the defense healthy on Saturday, and feels that they will have their 11 best defenders out on the field.

While some of the issues have been due to injury, some of it is just basic fundamentals that the Minutemen aren’t executing. Pinkham hopes to sure those things up on Saturday.

“We just have to do a better job,” Pinkham said. “There’s no getting around it, football is a game of tackling and we’ve got to tackle better and we’re making an effort through the course of this week in practice to emphasize it.”

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.