Three-and-out: UMass QB Frohnapfel hits Sharpe for 77-yard TD

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For a few seconds, at least, everything was perfect on Saturday for UMass football.

Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, a transfer from Marshall making his first start for the Minutemen, stood in the pocket and looked deep downfield and saw wideout Tajae Sharpe coming free across the middle. The 6-foot-6, 229-pounder fired a strike to Sharpe near midfield and hit him in stride.

The 6-foot-4 speedster did the rest, skipped by the dive of BC safety Sean Sylvia, outran BC defensive back Justin Simmons and stretched the ball over the goal line for a 77-yard touchdown.

It was an electric play, one that showed the offensive potential UMass fans hope becomes reality under new (old) coach Mark Whipple.

But unfortunately for the Minutemen and their fans, that play was the exception rather than the rule on Saturday, and the home team fell 30-7 to their in-state rival.

“I thought we matched up physically in the first half,” Whipple told reporters afterward, according to a transcript. “Blake missed some throws, and I thought we had to make some throws to get some momentum and that didn’t happen.”

Frohnapfel, who was under near-constant duress against the Eagles’ swarming defense, finished an underwhelming 9-for-22 passing for 147 yards and the one TD. He was sacked three times (including one on an intentional grounding call), and though he kept a few plays alive with his feet, he finished with negative-21 yards on the ground.

Although the UMass defense kept things close in the first half, which ended with BC up only 6-0, the offense couldn’t convert.

“The main thing for us is we have to step it up on offense,” Frohnapfel told reporters after the game. “[The defense] kind of did a good job, but we kind of kept them on the field too long with three-and-out, three-and-out. As an offense, that’s something we have to do better.”

First down: UMass captain Randall Jette gave the Minutemen one of their best scoring chances in the second quarter when he picked off a Tyler Murphy pass and returned it 20 yards to the BC 19-yard line. It was the fourth interception of Jette’s career.

“It’s our job to give the offense the best opportunities possible,” Jette told reporters. “We had plays we left on the field.”

But this time, the offense left plays on the field. Frohnapfel was called for intentional grounding on the first play, which cost the team 15 yards and a loss of a down. An incomplete pass and a short gain later, the Minutemen faced a fourth-and-21 from the BC 30, and Whipple summoned Blake Lucas to attempt a 47-yard field goal.

The kick sailed wide right, and the Eagles escaped.

“After [Murphy’s] pick, that’s when you’re trying to make something happen … and having the [intentional] grounding kind of stalled us a little bit,” Frohnapfel said. “That’s a situation where we have to make something happen.”

Second down: The 77-yard completion from Frohnapfel to Sharpe was UMass’ longest pass play in more than five years, since Liam Coen (now UMass’ QB coach) hit Matt Silver for 80 yards on Oct. 25, 2008.

The Frohnapfel-Sharpe connection is tied for ninth longest in UMass history.

Third down: Junior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox led all players with 15 tackles and was one of four UMass players in double digits in stops. Joe Colton had 13 tackles and Kassan Messiah and Stanley Andre each had 12.

Sean Duggan led BC in tackles with six.

Out: Before the Minutemen took the field for the opener, the home team had an estimated 1,500 UMass students run out of the tunnel and onto the sideline. The students massed along the field, where they remained while the visiting Eagles ran out of the their tunnel and onto the field.

The students then had to vacate their spot -- prime viewing locale though it was -- and find their seats.

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