Previewing UMass Minutemen: Sharpe Offensively

The University of Massachusetts Minutemen will make its first trip to Eastern Michigan University on Saturday; both teams having second year head coaches, high-powered offenses and one win on the season.

Whipple Ball: Mark Whipple has been coaching football for 35 years, and has been a head coach for 27 of those years. He coached at UMass from 1998 to 2003 when they were a division 1-AA school and then left to coach in the NFL. While at UMass, Whipple won a National Championship in 1998, and won conference championships in 1998, 1999 and 2003.

He returned to UMass in 2014 in hopes to revitalize the program. The University built a new football stadium for the team, as Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots was used as their home turf for many years.

Beginning of an End to a Short Lived Series: Last year was the first time Eastern Michigan and UMass had met in football, with the Minutemen winning that game 36-14. This game looks to be the beginning of an end, as this could very well be the last time EMU (1-9, 0-6) and UMass (1-8, 0-5) meet for a long time.

In 2012, UMass became a division one program joining the Mid-American Conference. The Minutemen’s tenure in the MAC was short lived as following this season UMass is leaving the MAC in hopes to join a new conference. There have been talks of them potentially joining the Sun Belt Conference, Conference-USA, or the American Conference.

Sharpe Weapon on Offense: UMass runs a pass heavy offense, having weapons spread out across the field at wide receiver. Tajae Sharpe leads the country in receptions with 95 catches on the year, along with 1,033-yards and four touchdowns this season.

Senior quarterback Blake Frohnapfel leads a fast paced offense that ranks fourth nationally in touchdown drives scored in two-minutes or less. The Minutemen have 24-touchdowns on the season, 15 of which have been in that short amount of time.

With such a pass heavy team going against a defense that has given up more rushing yards then any other team in the country, expect UMass to try and keep the ball closer to the ground in this game. Marquis Young and Jamal Wilson are the leading rushers for UMass having combined for 136-carries on 739-yards and six of the Minutemen’s touchdowns.

“You look at a team that has success throwing the football with the quarterback that they have and a couple of the receivers they have, they’re quality at that. But you know they’re going to look at us and say, we’re going to run the football and see what success we have with that,” said EMU defensive coordinator Brad McCaslin.

Pressuring Defense: UMass plays man-to-man defense when defending the pass, while the defensive line puts pressure on the quarterback and rushing attack using the blitz.

Not all has gone too well this season for the UMass defense having given up an average of close to 480-yards and 35-points per game.

A defense like UMass’ that relies on pressuring opposing offenses, are subject to giving up big plays. The UMass defense has done fairly well this season from preventing that from happening, but EMU will need to find space in the open field to be successful offensively.

Statistically, the UMass defense has been just about even when it comes to tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss. The Minutemen’s defense features Jovan Santos-Knox, Joe Colton, Shane Huber, and Trey Dudley-Gilles who all have 29 or more solo tackles on the season.

EMU Seniors Give it Last Shot at Home: For Eastern Michigan it’s senior day this Saturday, being the last home game of the season for EMU. Eastern Michigan has 10 seniors on the roster including Dylan Mulder, Darius Jackson, Ray Tillman, Dustin Creel, Darien Miles, Kris Strange, Great Ibe, Arron Pipkins, Jalen Williams, and Clay Dawson.

“I think our guys will refocus and gain some confidence back throughout the week in practice,” said EMU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer. “Practice has gone really well, it’s been a thing that’s been consistent for us all year long.”

Eastern Michigan’s coming off a 28-13 loss to Miami OH last week, and still seeking its first conference win of the year. EMU has two more opportunities to win this season with UMass this weekend and Central Michigan in the final game of the year.

“We weren’t hungry on Saturday (vs. Miami OH), truth be told,” said Chris Creighton. “I have no idea where UMass is; I would fully expect them to be on fire, to go after this one. That’s not how we were last Saturday.”

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