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Monday, September 1, 2014
Three-and-out: UMass not ACC-ready

By Jack McCluskey

For Mark Whipple, the takeaway from UMass’ season-opening 30-7 loss to Boston College at Gillette Stadium on Saturday was simple.

“We are not ready to play in the ACC is what I really found out,” the coach said on his weekly MAC conference call on Monday morning, according to a transcript of the session posted on the UMass website.

First down: “We played hard and the coaches did a good job preparing guys mentally,” Whipple said. “Not playing well had a lot to do with Boston College ... I felt if we went into the half close, which we did -- it was a 6-0 score -- that we would make some adjustments.

“Credit BC, they came out and scored the first three times they had the ball and we did not respond well.”

The Eagles used long drives (a 13-play, 75-yard drive for a TD and a 10-play, 52-yard drive for another TD) to open up the lead and to wear down the Minutemen defense in the third quarter, and Blake Frohnapfel and the offense were unable to stay on the field long enough to (A) produce more than seven points and (B) give their defense a chance to catch its wind.

Second down: J.T. Blyden was a bright spot for UMass on offense.

The 6-foot, 196-pound true freshman from West Grove, Pennsylvania, came off the bench to lead the Minutemen in rushing. Blyden carried the ball nine times for 43 yards, with a long run of 14 yards.

“He did some things, you never know for a true freshman in his first game. Certainly you get chances in college and he showed he has talent,” Whipple said. “We saw that on the field ... There is still a big step, certainly in the protection game. He did some good things and he missed some things, but he is not the first one to do so against Coach [Don] Brown's defense.

“His eyes weren't too big and we are excited about that. I think he is going to be a good player for us down the road.”

Third down: The Minutemen set a record for home attendance with 30,479 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. It was the second largest crowd to see UMass play at Gillette, which sounds contradictory until you remember that the Minutemen were not the home team for the 2010 meeting with New Hampshire that drew 32,848.

Attendance for the opener was no doubt boosted by the presence of another in-state school, with a healthy BC student contingent obvious to anyone in the stadium thanks to their bright gold shirts.

UMass averaged 15,830 fans per game at Gillette last season. The Minutemen host Colorado at Gillette on Saturday (3 p.m. ET on ESPN3), when both teams will be trying to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole to start the season.

Out: Whipple knew rebuilding a program that went 1-11 in each of the past two seasons wasn’t going to happen overnight, despite the hopes of the most ardent Minutemen fans.

He’s also showing no signs of being discouraged.

On Monday, the coach tweeted:

"Simple things should be simple, complex things should be possible." Rebuilding a team takes a nation: #UMassNation. Are you with us?

— Mark Whipple (@CoachWhipUMass) September 1, 2014
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.