Today, if you look a the standings, you'll notice UMass at 0-6. Only one other team in the MAC sits in the cellar, winless. The Minutemen were picked to finish like this in the MAC, selected by most media to finish dead last. Yet, those who watched the game know that this team was much closer to four wins than none. A pair of game winning drives were derailed at the most inopportune moment. Another game was headed to overtime until a chip shot field goal went awry. Yet another was a second away from the ball in the redzone. What can we take from this
What we already knew:
1. Blake Lucas is not the answer at kicker
In a widely contested decision last year, Charlie Molnar opted to go for two and the end of a game rather than attempt an extra point and go to overtime. The reason? He didn't trust his kicker to make field goals in overtime. One year later the same kicker remains on the roster. One year later he's still causing heartbreak. Blake Lucas has missed kicks when it mattered; shanking a short field goal to tie Vanderbilt at the end of regulation and missing an extra point against Miami. He's been cited as the reason that UMass attempted a passing play at the end of regulation against Miami, despite the fact that UMass was down by only one and at extra point distance. If you can't trust your kicker in these situations, when can you? Fortunately, it seems that Mark Whipple has been trying new faces at kicker in practice. Blake Lucas should not be part of this team right now.
What we didn't know:
1.Blake Frohnapfel would be this good
Coming into this season, UMass was known for two things: horrible quarterback play and being the red headed step child of the MAC. UMass fans placed their hopes to change at least half of that script on Blake Frohnapfel, a transfer student from Marshall. Little was known about how good Frohnapfel would be. While he looked good in limited action, all of it came during the tail end of blowouts. After a quarterback competition where many said he looked rusty and not as sharp as some would have hoped, Frohnapfel won the reins and marched into Gillette to lead the Minutemen against Boston College. Six weeks later, Frohnapfel has been one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC. Moreover, he's doing it behind an offensive line that brings new meaning to offensive. Paired with Tajae Sharpe and Jean Sifrin, Blake Frohnapfel is going to be a delight to watch these next two years.
2. The defense would be this bad
The narrative around the defense in the offseason was that the Minutemen had a depth issue and an offense issue. With another year of experience, another class of recruits, and an offense that won't produce three and outs every possession, the defense will be rested and be able to show their stuff. Turns out, the defense is just plain bad. The secondary has been exposed, the team has one of the worst third down stop rates in the entire FBS, and points have been coming in bunched. Unable to hold a team under 30 points, and letting four of them score over 40 points, the Minutemen need to find the answer on defense, because the offense can't do all the work.
What we still don't know:
1. Can the team learn to win?
Up 27 points on Miami at halftime, along with putting up 41 points in a half, the Minutemen looked to be well on their way to their first win. Come the final whistle, another heartbreaking loss. Once again Whipple was found saying that the kids need to learn to win. I'm going to just stop here for a second. Blake Frohnapfel went 11-1 in 2010 for Colonial Forge High School. Tajae Sharpe led his high school team to two state championships. Stanley Andre was undefeated his senior year. If these kids don't know how to win, they must have amnesia. In other words, I'm not buying it. It's a lazy statement made to hide from the real fact that there have been questionable coaching decisions and some bad luck. Don't take this as an attack on Whipple, what he's done to this team has been nothing short of amazing. Just don't think that these kids don't know how to win.