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Massachusetts Minutemen vs Colorado Buffaloes football recap: Buffaloes stampede Minutemen 48-14

The Colorado Buffaloes utilized a dominant rushing attack (59 carries for 390 yards) to defeat the Massachusetts Minutemen 48-14 Saturday in Boulder.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Massachusetts Minutemen had high expectations going in to the 2015 season. They talked openly about how winning the MAC Championship is their ultimate goal, and about how they want to be the first team in school history to represent UMass in an FBS bowl game. The Colorado Buffaloes also had high expectations going in to this season, as they want to show they were not the same team that won two games in 2014 and make it to a bowl of their own.

Only one team made any progress towards their goals for this season, and it was not the Minutemen as they were overwhelmed by Colorado's rushing attack in a dominant 48-14 win for the Buffs in Boulder.

The early first quarter saw UMass (and specifically QB Blake Frohnapfel) struggle to find any momentum as their first two drives were three and outs littered with dropped balls and missed opportunities. Meanwhile, the Buffs marched down the field on their opening drive for a score and made it look easy against the Minuteman defense. Colorado went seven drives last week against Hawaii before scoring.

It turns out the third time was the charm for the UMass offense. After a bit of luck in the form of a 16-yard Colorado punt, UMass put together a fast 5 play, 56-yard scoring drive in only 55 seconds, capped with a Jamal Wilson 2-yard touchdown run. Frohnapfel found a rhythm on the drive, going 3/3 for 48 yards and getting his top target involved in the offense, hitting Tajae Sharpe twice for 36 yards

Colorado answered UMass' touchdown drive with a massive one of their own where UMass' defensive issues were brought to light yet again. The 14 play, 91-yard drive consisted of three 3rd down conversions (including one on a 34-yard check down completion) and a first down via a Kassan Messiah roughing the passer penalty. It was culminated with Sefo Liufau's (surprisingly) first career rushing touchdown.

UMass' defense struggled all of last season getting off the field on 3rd down, and had difficulty defending mobile quarterbacks. Those issues need to be corrected if UMass has any real hope of making a bowl game this season.

UMass tied the game again on their next possession. Frohnapfel again had some issues with accuracy early in the drive, but after a big 3rd down conversion by true freshman Marquis Young, Frohnapfel found Marken Michel with a pretty pass for an 18-yard score.

Colorado's next drive again showcased the Buffaloes powerful run game. The pounded the ball down the field against an overmatched Minuteman defense and Michael Adkins topped the drive off with a 21-yard TD run.

UMass was forced to punt on their next possession, however a low snap caused punter Logan Laurent to field the ball with his knee on the ground. Initially ruled a touchback, the play was overturned on review and Colorado got the ball on the UMass 28 instead of their own 20. UMass' defense scored a minor victory by holding the Buffs to a field goal.

Down 24-14, UMass needed a solid scoring drive to stay in the game. Michel started the drive with an end-around and almost broke for a TD but was just tripped up, and then Frohnapfel hit Sharpe for a huge catch on the sideline for a gain of 41. A targeting call on Colorado's Afolabi Laguda for a hit on UMass tight end Sharif Custis resulted in Laguda being disqualified and set up UMass 1st and goal on the 10 yard line. Custis was down for several minutes before walking off under his own power; Frohnapfel did his tight end no favors with the soft pass. Frohnapfel made another bad decision two plays later tossing an interception to Colorado DB Ryan Moeller on a very poorly thrown ball.

Instead of getting the points they needed to keep the game close, UMass lost their confidence for the remainder of the contest.

Colorado took advantage of the turnover and proceeded to again march down the field on the ground, Phillip Lindsay punching it in from the 1-yard line putting the Buffs up 31-14. Four different Buffaloes found the end zone in the first half as Colorado pounded the rock for 207 yards on the ground.

After deferring to open the game, Colorado got the ball to start the 2nd half, and it was more of the same. After one quick completion to Nelson Spruce, Colorado rolled down the field on the ground again against a UMass defense that was inexplicably not playing with eight defenders in the box. After an injury timeout for UMass CB Kelton Brackett, the Minutemen finally loaded up against the run and forced Colorado into another field goal.

The comedy of errors continued for UMass on their next possession. It began with a near pick-six from Frohnapfel, and then on a run that started off promising, Shadrach Abrokwah fumbled the ball away and Colorado took over just shy of the 50. UMass again could not make a stop when they needed to and Liufau eventually hit Spruce for an 18-yard TD.

UMass managed to put together a decent drive following Colorado's score, but they ended up stalling out and turning it over on downs at the Colorado 20. The Buffs took over and ran all over the Minutemen again, with Christian Powell finishing the drive with a 35-yard TD run.

Mercifully for UMass it was officially garbage time after Colorado made it 48-14. Backups from both teams entered the game and the teams traded punts until the clock finally struck zero. The Minutemen's season of high expectations could not have started any lower.

UMass 3 Up/3 Down

3 Up:

Tajae Sharpe - Arguably the MAC's best receiver, Sharpe did what he does again on Saturday, with 11 catches for 138 yards. He's the #1, #2, and #3 weapon in the UMass offense as it stands right now, and while he's great, he can't do it by himself.

Marken Michel - Michel had a bit of a breakout game today, with 4 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown along with one carry for 22 yards that he was a desperation tackle away from taking to the house. UMass fans know a little about what Michel can do, as they have seen him line up all over the field for UMass. But he showed flashes of brilliance in open space against Colorado, along with the kind of quickness that can make NFL scouts take notice. He threw his hat in the ring to be UMass #2 offensive weapon this year and to see more consistent playing time.

UMass' defensive backfield - To be honest it was difficult to find a third player or unit that deserved praise after Sharpe and Michel (almost went with Logan Laurent) but the DBs actually played well when asked to today. Admittedly they did not have a ton of action given Colorado's rushing prowess, but they limited Nelson Spruce to 6/64/1 and only gave up 15 total completions for 168 yards with a few nice pass breakups. They will need similar performances once #MACtion gets underway.

3 Down:

UMass' front seven - The Minutemen's front seven was an embarrassing pathetic disgrace against Colorado. They were overmatched from the opening kickoff and could never make any kind of stop when they needed to. For a team that talked a lot about being an improved defense, specifically along the defensive line, they laid an egg in the worst way on Saturday. UMass cannot afford to perform like that again this season, or ever quite frankly, if they want this program to succeed.

UMass' running game - While the Minutemen may have ended this game with 147 yards on the ground, don't let the number fool you: the majority of that yardage was picked up in garbage time. When it counted, the Minutemen couldn't move the ball on the ground, and that is a problem for a pro-style offense that requires balance to be at its most effective.

Blake Frohnapfel - Froh may be 1st team All-MAC and on multiple award watch lists, but he played very poorly today. He missed numerous open throws from the first drive until he was pulled with the score out of hand, threw one interception and but not for a couple of bounces could have thrown three more, and nearly got Sharif Custis killed with a suicide pass in the 2nd quarter. The interception he threw in the end zone to Moeller absolutely killed the Minutemen; they lost any and all momentum and never sniffed a scoring drive again. He needs to be much better for the Minutemen to accomplish anything.

***

The UMass football program has faced scrutiny from every angle since their move up to FBS. They are constantly criticized for being pushovers or for their move up being a mistake. After re-hiring Mark Whipple there was a lot of optimism for the program, even after a 3-9 season in 2014. This year was supposed to be different. 2015 was supposed to be the next step forward in becoming a championship football program. Yet they came out today and played their worst game since Whipple was brought back, and one of their worst ever since moving up.

UMass is going independent next season. No conference money, no bowl tie-ins, no stability. They're teetering on the knife edge of making in FBS or failing. They need this season to be a success otherwise the programs detractors will have an even louder voice. 2015 is the most important season is Massachusetts Minutemen history, and the team doesn't seem to realize it. They better shape up quickly, or 2015 will be another long season in the Commonwealth.