UMass set for home opener vs. Indiana

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
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Suffice it to say things did not go according to plan for coach Charley Molnar and UMass in the opener against UConn.

The Minutemen lost 37-0 to the Huskies. They had a grand total of three first downs, 3 net yards rushing and 56 net yards passing.

"I don't feel good about our team's performance," Molnar said after practice Wednesday. "Obviously, after you lose and never give yourself a chance to compete, as a coach you can't feel good about it."

Then Molnar noted what he did feel good about.

"Our team fought hard through four quarters, the guys never quit," he said. "It was disappointing but we've already moved past that, we're really focused now on Indiana."

Molnar hopes that his young team will benefit from the experience -- and from getting out the jitters of the first game on the new stage.

"Part of it is when you're playing with so many freshmen, true freshmen and redshirt freshmen, the only way you can improve is just to get experience," he said. "We've worked hard each day we've been out there. I think some of these players are better players than they were when we played Thursday night.

"Obviously their skill sets are just starting to develop. That alone will make us a better football team."

UMass was scheduled to practice last Friday, the day after the opener, regardless of the outcome. Molnar said his message to the team was simple.

"Don't let UConn beat you twice. They already beat you once," he said. "I think after we got through Friday's practice, as the afternoon went along the guys' intensity and spirit picked up."

Next up is the home opener, the first game UMass will play as an FBS team in its new home venue, Gillette Stadium. Indiana comes to Foxborough for the occasion, having already matched its win total from last season with a 24-17 win over Indiana State.

And while Indiana is far from the cream of the Big Ten crop, it is still a Big Ten team. The offensive line has typical Big Ten size, with no lineman lighter than 268 pounds or shorter than 6-foot-2.

"That in itself will be a challenge for our football team," Molnar said of IU's size. "The game will be won in the trenches."

It will also be won -- or lost -- by the performances of the skill position players.

Redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn struggled in the opener, going 9-for-22 for 56 yards and getting picked off twice. He'll need to make strides for UMass to improve. And it would be good if those strides came sooner rather than later, as the Minutemen ask their fans to follow them to Division I-A.

"I'm optimistic that we've made strides," Molnar said. "I'm optimistic that we've got the right guys in the right places and they've worked hard so we'll see what happens on Saturday afternoon."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

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