UMass struggles in 45-0 season-opening loss to Wisconsin

Mike McGinnis

The Minutemen were victimized by big plays from the Badgers offense all game en route to their second-straight opening day shut-out loss.

Two years, two shutout losses on opening weekend. This year's game was not quite as bad for the UMass Minutemen as they fell 45-0 to the No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers instead of an unranked UConn team. The Badgers offense racked up 598 yards of total offense and had three different running backs top 100 yards on the day.

The first half had flashes of a competitive UMass team as they managed to come up with a interception and hold the Badgers to field goal inside the 10-yard line, but as the game went on the better team emerged and Wisconsin started to run away with it in the second half.

The biggest take away was the lack of pressure on Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave. Stave had all day to throw the ball and got the ball downfield to open receivers, although many of them found the turf due to being underthrown.

Randall Jette broke up two such plays, both to Jared Abbrederis, but the Wisconsin All-American got the better of the Minutemen on his pair of catches. Both went for touchdowns, the first for 65 yards and the second for 57.

Offensively there wasn't much positive to talk about. Stacey Bedell looked solid in his first start and Derek Beck appears to have developed a strong chemistry with Mike Wegzyn, but on the whole the offense looked disjointed and many of Wegzyn's throws were overthrown.

The most successful sustained drive was led by the second-team offense and backup quarterback A.J. Doyle. That drive -- which lasted for 7:30 -- lasted 12 plays and went 45 yards before a failed fourth-down conversion gave the ball back to Wisconsin.

Charley Molnar said in the postgame radio interview that they plan to use both Wegzyn and Doyle every week and Doyle did his part to make sure he's included in the gameplan. He completed five-of-seven passes for 39 yards and converted two-of-three third downs on that last possession.

Saturday was a learning experience for the Minutemen, and one they won't soon forget. It was a reminder that regardless of how far they have come in the last year, they still have a long, long way to go before they are where the want to be.

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