Eagles take down Minutemen
Massachusetts defensive back Randall Jette, right, carries the ball in front of Boston College wide receiver Dan Crimmins, center, on an interception as defensive back Joe Colton (25) defends during the first second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Purchase photo reprints »
Massachusetts head coach Mark Whipple gestures during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Boston College won 30-7. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Purchase photo reprints »
FOXBOROUGH — Any fan hoping to treat Saturday’s season opener as a barometer of how much UMass football had improved entering 2014 got to see a lot of the Minutemen’s defensive unit on the field, but far too little of the offense.
Boston College controlled possession of the ball for over 42 minutes, ran just about twice as many offensive plays, and got a nice twin-threat performance from quarterback Tyler Murphy, taking the full measure of UMass in a 30-7 Eagles victory before 30,479 at Gillette Stadium.
Murphy, a transfer from Florida, ran for 118 yards and a touchdown and threw for 173 yards with a score, a 43-yard TD connection to Josh Bordner that restored the Eagles’ three-score lead, just after UMass had put up its lone touchdown of the afternoon.
The Minutemen (0-1) dropped the first game of Mark Whipple’s second tenure as head coach in Amherst, just as they’d done in Whipple’s first-ever game at UMass back in 1998. Whereas that season concluded with a Division I-AA national championship, the Minutemen now find themselves at 2-23 through their first two-plus seasons of Division I FBS football.
“The kinds of things that happened today show we’re not ready to play in the ACC, but that’s not what we’re in,” said Whipple, referring to Boston College’s Atlantic Coast Conference membership. “I thought our guys were prepared, we matched up physically in the first half, but our defense just wore down. We just don’t have enough bodies right now.
“Overall I’m not happy, but I’m not displeased. We’re a work in progress. Our goal is to get out of these first two games 1-1 at home, and I told the team that’s what we’ve gotta do.”
Boston College used a pair of first-half field goals to lead 6-0 after the first 30 minutes, despite a wide disparity in total offense (276 yards to UMass’ 69). Both teams missed field-goal tries late in the second quarter. UMass had a golden opportunity go begging after cornerback Randall Jette intercepted a Murphy pass and returned the pick 20 yards to the BC 19, but new Minuteman quarterback Blake Frohnapfel was called for intentional grounding on first down, setting UMass back to the 34 with a loss of the down. Two plays gained four yards before kicker Blake Lucas drove his 47-yard field-goal attempt wide to the right.
“The hardest thing was dominating the game and only being up six (at the half),” said BC head coach Steve Addazio. “The message at halftime was just keep pounding at the rock, and the rock is going to give way. We were physical and they couldn’t defend us in the run game.”
The Eagles (1-0) started to open things up in the third quarter with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard scoring run by Myles Willis, putting BC ahead 13-0 with 8:49 left. UMass promptly went three-and-punt and the Eagles soon cashed in, this time moving 52 yards and getting a 1-yard TD run by Murphy on a naked bootleg around the left side to make it 20-0.
UMass finally found the end zone on its next series, on third-and-10 from its own 23. Frohnapfel (9-of-22, 147 yards) hit wideout Tajae Sharpe on a post pattern, and Sharpe turned the catch into a 77-yard touchdown connection with 1:29 left in the third — the Minutemen’s first pass play of 70 yards or better since Liam Coen and Matt Silver hooked up for an 80-yarder against Bryant Oct. 25, 2008.
With its lead at 20-7, Boston College hit back in less than 90 seconds. Bordner got wide open along the right sideline and Murphy (17-of-24 passing) found him in space for a 43-yard score on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Eagles back in front by 20.
“After we made the long throw, it’s 20-7. We had momentum then,” said Whipple. “That was more disheartening to me. That’s when you need to make a stop and maybe get the ball back.”
BC’s Justin Simmons then came up with an interception of Frohnapfel and a 20-yard runback to the UMass 35, leading to a chip-shot 21-yard field goal by Joey Launceford to round out the scoring.
“A team like that, you don’t get a lot of chances like that. Those were ones we needed to hit. If we had hit them, it might have been a different game,” said Frohnapfel, a transfer from Marshall who made his first collegiate start. “The defense did a good job, but we kept them on the field for way too long. As an offense, we have to do better.”
Boston College posted its eighth straight win against UMass, dating back to the Minutemen’s last head-to-head win in 1978, and ran its all-time lead in the cross-state series to 20-5. The Eagles totaled 338 rushing yards, with Tyler Rouse adding 87 yards and Willis 57, and had 511 yards in all compared to UMass’ 202.
Freshman J.T. Blyden led the UMass rushers with 43 yards on nine carries, but the Minutemen ended the day with only 55 yards on the ground. BC ran 86 offensive plays to only 44 for the Minutemen.
“We lost a football game, but it’s a whole different situation,” said UMass safety Joe Colton, who recorded 13 tackles Saturday. “It’s really day and night with the old coaching staff and now, and where we are as a team. I think we’ve improved, and we’ll be a better football team against Colorado than we were against BC.”
Progress could also be measured in the Minutemen’s first points in a season opener as an FBS member. In the last two season openers, at Connecticut in 2012 and at Wisconsin in 2013, UMass was whitewashed by a combined 82-0.
“We’re a I-AA team with some I-A players. That’s who we’ve got,” said Whipple. “That’s why we had to move the ball better on offense. I don’t know if there’s total trust between both sides of the ball, and we’re working on that. Their quarterback was better than ours, and he was probably the player of the game. They did what they wanted to do, and we didn’t stop them.”
UMass faces Colorado (0-1) of the Pac-12 Conference Saturday at 3 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. Colorado enters off a 31-17 loss Friday to rival Colorado State.