Friday, September 6, 2013
UMass set to host Maine in Gillette opener
By Jack McCluskey
Week 1 went pretty much the way it was supposed to.
The Minutemen went into their opener at No. 21 Wisconsin with realistic expectations, hoping for a win but knowing they would likely start the 2013 season with a loss.
“Looking back at the Wisconsin game, they were a superior football team,” coach Charley Molnar said in his weekly conference call with the media. “I knew that going in and our team knew that going in. We felt like we had to play a near perfect game [to win], and in our sport, it's really, really hard to do with any team, especially a young team, such as ours.
“Our guys played hard, we were disciplined for the most part, we had some foolish penalties, but our guys were somewhat assignment-sound. We just weren't able to make any plays, and it really cost us at the end.”
The end was a 45-0 loss, with the Badgers piling up 393 rushing yards and nearly 600 yards of total offense.
But then the Badgers were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance, while the Minutemen were coming off a 1-11 season in Year 1 as an FBS program.
Week 2 brings UMass’ home opener at Gillette Stadium (2 p.m. ET on ESPN3), with a familiar foe on the opposite sideline in the Maine Black Bears.
The UMass-Maine rivalry goes all the way back to 1909 and includes 58 previous meetings at the FCS level. The 59th meeting will be the first time the teams play with UMass at the Division I level.
“I'm sure this game is awfully important to them, and we're going to have to bring our very, very best in order to win the game, there's no doubt about it,” Molnar said.
Maine opened the season with a 23-6 win at Norfolk State. Quarterback Marcus Wasilewski had 209 yards passing -- including an 85-yard TD toss to Zedric Joseph -- and 54 yards rushing in the win.
“As far as their ability to control the football, I think we are going have to make some turnovers, more than we did this past game, in order to upset their rhythm,” Molnar said of the Maine offense.
But the Black Bears’ defense got more attention from the UMass boss.
“I think watching their defense, they run a number of different pressures and coverage schemes. So, they keep your quarterback busy all afternoon,” Molnar said. “I think that they are aggressive on defense with lots of different looks that they like to use. I think it's going be a real challenge for us offensively.”
That means the Minutemen need more from starting QB Mike Wegzyn, who finished 9-for-23 passing for 73 yards and one interception against Wisconsin.
“For the most part, he took what the defense gave him,” Molnar said of Wegzyn’s day in Camp Randall. “There were some plays where I think he would've liked to have had them back. There was some tight coverage and he tried to get the ball in there -- where he had time and could've moved on to his next receiver.
“For the most part, he played poised and I thought he took a step up from some other games that he played last year.”
While the competition won’t be anywhere near as tough as it was in Week 1, the Minutemen will have to step up their game in Week 2 to prove to their fans that they’re ready to make Year 2 better than Year 1.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.