UMass Minutemen aim to give seniors a win at home
AMHERST — UMass quarterback Andrew Ford wants to reward the seniors who helped his integration into the Minutemen program.
“Getting them a win on their last home game is something that (the coaches) have been really preaching to us,” Ford said. “That’s something the underclassmen really want to do. We want to send these seniors off on the right note.”
The Minutemen (1-7) are determined to snap a five-game losing streak today (noon) when they take on Wagner (4-3) at McGuirk Stadium.
The Minutemen will play their last three games at Troy, Brigham Young and Hawaii.
“It’s absolutely important that we break this slump, especially for these seniors,” said Ford, a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Virginia Tech.
UMass has been competitive but mostly unsuccessful playing an independent FBS schedule that included close losses to SEC opponents Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
Wagner is an FCS opponent that sticks out on the schedule like a parting gift for the Minutemen before their November road slate. UMass and Wagner share Boston College as a common opponent. The Eagles downed UMass 26-7 at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 10 and crushed Wagner 42-10 on Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium.
Despite the obvious mismatch between the two programs in relation to the NCAA football power structure, Ford insisted the Minutemen are unworthy of treating any FCS team as a cupcake.
“We are treating them like any other opponent,” said Ford. “We know they are a good football team and we are going to get their best game, so we have to approach every day the same way.
“We are in no position to overlook anybody and I don’t think any team is. I don’t think any team in the country can overlook an opponent because there are so many talented teams that can show up on Saturday and beat anybody.”
UMass coach Mark Whipple is tapping all the logistical and human resources at his disposal to secure a victory against the Seahawks. That includes insights from defensive coordinator/safeties coach Tom Masella, a Wagner alum who was the Seahawks associate head coach in 2012 and 2013.
“Tom was down there beforehand and we see their guys on tape and they have skill and the quarterback (Alex Thomson) is a really good player,” said Whipple.
“They have good skill and are physical up front on both sides of the ball. They are a physical, tough group and they do a good job and play at a high level. We just have to eliminate the mistakes on our part.”
Ford has provided a potent air attack that complements the ground game of tailback Marquise Young, who has 695 yards on 147 carries with three touchdowns.
Ford has completed 123-of-204 passes for 1,364 yards with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven appearances and five starts. Sophomore split end Andy Isabella is Ford’s deep threat while junior tight end Adam Breneman, a Penn State transfer, makes the tough catches and moves the chains.
Ford and Breneman were teammates at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pa. Breneman leads the team in catches (44) and receiving yards (484) with four touchdowns.
WAGNER at UMASS
Noon — Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium, Amherst
TV: NESNplus, ESPN3 — Radio: WEEI-FM (105.5), WATD-FM (95.5), WXKS-AM (1200), WCRN-AM (830).
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. The Seahawks will be lusting to avenge the indignity that the UMass Redmen heaped upon Wagner during the darkest depths of the Great Depression. UMass embarrassed Wagner 77-0 on Nov. 14, 1931, in the only previous meeting between the two programs.
2. UMass quarterback Andrew Ford credits the Minutemen’s recent success moving the football to the offensive line, a unit that has endured injuries and frequent reshuffling all season. UMass has the skill position players to hurt Wagner early and often if the OL controls the line of scrimmage.
3. UMass free safety and redshirt senior Khary Bailey-Smith of Weymouth has been a mainstay on the Minutemen defense for five years while inspirationally playing through pain and injuries. Look for UMass to step up for its captain in his final home game.