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It’s the final year of MAC membership for the Minutemen. That gives them at least the 12 regular season MAC games. Well, they are scheduled to finish at Buffalo, so there’s always a chance of a(nother) weather cancellation.
The #7 jersey, worn by quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, brought the Minutemen a ton of good fortune last year. The 6-6, 238-pounder burst onto the scene to throw for 3,345 yards, with 23 TDs and 10 interceptions in less than eight games. Despite missing the final two games, Frohnapfel was a First Team All-MAC selection.
UMass posted just three wins in 2014. While that is one more than in the Minutemen’s first two FBS seasons combined, it doesn’t begin to show the team’s improvement. With Frohnapfel at the helm, UMass was within seven points in seven other contests and within three points in three of those.
Massachusetts topped the MAC in pass offense, averaging 311.8 ypg. The Minutemen used 492 passing attempts as opposed to 387 rushes. The latter yielded 1,312 yards for an average of 109.3 ypg. That left UMass 11th in rushing. The combination put head coach Mark Whipple’s team in sixth place with 421.1 yards of total offense. Nationally, the Minutemen were 11th in passing yards and 115th in rushing. On an individual level. Frohnapfel was first among MAC players in total offense (326.1 ypg).
UMass was seventh in scoring offense (27.3 ppg). Shadrach Abrokwah led the team in scoring with 48 points on a team-high eight TDs. He also led the Minutemen in rushing (72.2 ypg)
Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe led the team with 1,281 receiving yards, averaging 106.8 ypg. He returns this season, but tight end Jean Sifrin (42 receptions, 642 yards and six TDs – one less than Sharpe) is gone. The tight end spot is a key position in the UMass offense, so replacing Sifrin will be important.
A better kicking game would have come in handy last year – especially with so many close games. Minutemen kickers were good on 54.5 percent of their field goal attemps (6 of 11, 12th MAC) and 38 of 44 PATs (last MAC). It wasn’t much better with punting (12th MAC, 33.3 avg).
UMass was fifth in third down conversions (42.7%). Possibly related to kicking issues, UMass attempted a conference high 36 fourth down conversions. It converted 19. Overall, the offense sputtered a bit in the red zone, finishing in a tie for 11th with Eastern Michigan. The Minutemen lost possession on downs eight times, at least twice the number of all but one other team (Akron, 5).
The Minutemen were 12th in turnover margin, gaining 17 turnovers and losing possession on 23 occasions.
The 33.0 ppg surrendered by UMass was 11th (MAC). That was one step (and a half point) ahead of Bowling Green at No. 12. When the two teams met last September, the Falcons pulled out a 47-42 win. UMass opens MAC play this year by traveling to BG what could be another offensive shootout.
The Minutemen were ninth in defending both the run (191,8 ypg) and pass (255.8 ypg).
UMass sacked opposing quarterbacks 16 times but allowed 28 sacks.
Officials assessed 95 penalties for 908 yards against UMass opponents (1st MAC). The Minutemen, meanwhile, drew 73 penalties for 617 yards (5th best MAC).
Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox recorded a conference-high 143 tackles in his sophomore campaign. Stanley Andre, also a linebacker, posted 128 stops in his senior campaign.