UMass notes: Plenty of growing pains

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
9:07
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When you're making the kind of transition that UMass is, going from the FCS to the FBS, there are sure to be growing pains.

Those pains were on display in the opener against UConn, when the Minutemen managed just 59 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard in a 37-0 loss.

The pains were visible again Saturday. The Minutemen managed to put points on the scoreboard when signal-caller Mike Wegzyn scrambled 16 yards for a touchdown to cut the Indiana lead to 7-6, but Blake Lucas' point-after attempt went wide left.

In the third quarter, Wegzyn and the offense moved the chains with a succession of quick passes and got the offense into position for a 36-yard field goal attempt. That kick was also wide left.

UMass finished with 289 yards of total offense, 16 first downs and those six points. Since it finished with 59, three and zero in the first game, that counts as a small step forward.

After going just 9-for-22 for 56 yards and an interception in his first start for the Minutemen, Wegzyn was 18-for-26 for 161 yards and had seven rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown in his second start.

"I felt more prepared coming out," Wegzyn said after the game. "I think as a team we felt more prepared. We've been looking a lot better in practice, but obviously we didn't have the game we were expecting or hoped to have."

UMass coach Charley Molnar said he thought his quarterback showed some progress.

"He took a step forward, but you have to remember he was starting at ground zero," the coach said.

At the end of the day, the offense still produced only six points. But the redshirt freshman was optimistic.

"We're moving forward. We're taking strides," Wegzyn said. "So we just have to polish up and hopefully next week, I think personally, we'll be there."

Down and out

Tre Roberson was riding high. The Hoosiers quarterback had rushed for two long scores -- one from 50 yards, the other from 39 -- and thrown for a short score -- a five-yard pass to Shane Wynn -- in the first quarter.

And he had his offense on the doorstep again early in the second quarter.

But after he kept the ball on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Roberson did not get up after a three-yard rush. Trainers rushed out to attend to him, working on his left leg and quickly signaling for a waiting ambulance.

Roberson was lifted onto a stretcher, loaded into the ambulance and driven off the field.

The sophomore finished the day with four rushes for 114 yards and the two touchdowns and was 6-for-13 passing for 81 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"He just took advantage of what our defense was giving. That's the bottom line," Molnar said of Roberson.

No defending the defense

After holding UConn to a respectable 372 yards of total offense -- two of the Huskies' scores came on defense or special teams -- the UMass D was the highlight, if there was one, of the opener.

Not so in the home opener.

The Minutemen allowed the Hoosiers 452 yards of total offense … in the first half.

Indiana finished with 611 yards of total offense in its 45-6 win.

Molnar said he didn't think the problems were schematic, saying it was more fundamental than that.

"It was just our tackling was atrocious," the coach said. "I saw more missed tackles today than I ever expected to see."

The Minutemen will need to correct that problem in a hurry, if they hope to stay in games. The offense as currently constituted is not capable of bringing the team back from a deficit.

Penalties aplenty

UMass outdid Indiana in one category -- and it was one Molnar & Co. wouldn't have minded losing.

The Minutemen were flagged nine times for 80 yards on the day, outstripping the Hoosiers' six flags for 81 yards.

"Penalties are a big problem, because we're really not good enough to overcome them," Molnar said. "I don't know what teams are, but we're really not good enough to overcome penalties. We shoot ourselves in the foot early in the series offensively, and it's almost a guaranteed punt."

The film will have more to say on the issue, but some of the flags will no doubt sit better than others with the coaching staff.

"Some of them were just aggressive football errors or just mistakes," Molnar said, "and some were stupid penalties."

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

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?