They say there is no such thing as a moral victory, but the Massachusetts Minutemen (0-2) had a lot of positives to take away from this Saturday's 41-38 loss to Colorado (1-1).
The offense finally looked like it belonged in the FBS for the first time in awhile as they had 371 total yards. UMass seems to be getting more comfortable with the new system as they ran for 104 yards compared to just 55 the previous week. Jamal Wilson was the leading rusher with 10 carries for 47 yards and one touchdown. Freshman J.T. Blyden struggled with 11 rushes for only 23 yards.
Blake Frohnapfel looked very impressive completing 20 of his 38 passes for 267 yards, three of which found the endzone. He did throw one interception and had a few scares as Sifrin and Sharpe bailed him out a few times. He even displayed his mobility as he had a nifty 17-yard scamper. With Frohnapfel putting up this kind of performance against a PAC-12 opponent, no matter how bad they may or may not be, should get UMass fans excited for when MAC conference play starts.
At the half UMass led 21-20 as transfer tight-end Jean Sifrin proved why he was the crown jewel of the 2014 recruiting class as he hauled in two touchdowns catches. You might see his second one on SportCenter as he snagged a jump ball with one hand. Sifrin would finish with four catches for 40 yards and the two TD's. Rodney Mills also catch a first half touchdown.
The defense played stout for two and a half quarters as they kept UMass in the game with good tackling and an effective pass rush led by Kassan Messiah and Jovan Santos-Knox who each had a sack. Santos Knox led the team with 12 tackles.
Randall Jette made the defensive play of the game as he picked off Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau for 30 yards as he brought it back all the way to the Buffaloes 2-yard line. Jamal Wilson would punch it in as UMass would go up 31-20. That's his second pick of the season in as many games.
Colorado would then tack on three unanswered touchdowns which pushed the lead to 41-31 and proved to be too much. Wideout Nelson Spruce was a terror on the field as he caught 10 balls for 145 yards and two scores. One of which was a 70-yard reception as UMass had a lapse in coverage.
UMass tried to mount a comeback as Marken Michel run into the endzone from 6 yards out to close the gap at 41-38. However UMass could not produce a stop as Colorado ran out the clock. Michel also added two catches for 71 yards.
Tajae Sharpe led all receivers again with 5 catches for 83 yards. Whipple also got Sharpe involved on the ground as called two run plays for his star player which netted 17 yards.
While the defense couldn't stop the Buffaloes when it mattered, the offense was good enough to keep the game close and interesting, and as a UMass fan that isn't too bad of a consolation prize.
Colorado improves to 1-1 and UMass falls to 0-2 with both losses coming at home, although that was to be expected.
UMass travels on the road next Saturday as they head down to Tennessee to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at Noon.