It's difficult to describe the emotions I felt as a Massachusetts Minutemen fan on Saturday. They ran the gamut from anger to incredulity to despair to cold hard reality, and it was not pretty. I watched my alma mater play maybe the worst game I've ever seen them play. That's a tough thing to say, and it comes on the heels of watching them get blown out on three separate occasions this season.
But those blowout losses, they pale in comparison to what I watched. They were nothing at all when measured up against the bad effort put forth by the Minutemen on Saturday.
I think Mark Whipple has a job at UMass as long as he wants it (barring of course a couple seasons like the first two in FBS). But he shouldn't be calling plays anymore at the very least. Take that job away from him, because he's doing terrible at it. Maybe it's too much on his plate, but it's not working.
Whipple said after the game today he did a bad job calling the game. That makes twice in two weeks you've had a UMass coach tell the media they were having an off day play-calling (DC Tom Masella said it last week against Bowling Green).
Whether it's replacing a coach like Masella, whose defense played well today but it still flawed and not well-coached, or taking the play-calling responsibilities away from Whipple, something needs to change. Jesse and I expected this defense to look good because of Kent State's bad offense. The defense still has issues, and we're going to see it next week against Toledo.
The offense has issues too, and they exist all over the map.
The offensive line has taken a step back this year. The running game, which was not great to begin with last season, has taken a step back this year. The Minutemen are missing Jean Sifrin in the offense, and it is becoming more and more obvious each passing week.
But most of all, Blake Frohnapfel has taken more than just a step back this season, he's taken a giant leap back.
I want to go on the record that I love Blake Frohnapfel. He's a fantastic kid. Smart, well-spoken, humble, just an all-around good person. But this is where I officially call for him to be removed as the starter, because he isn't getting it done anymore. Frohnapfel is playing poorly, he's hurting the team more than he's helping them when he's on the field, and he needs to be benched for Ross Comis starting next week.
Frohnapfel was All-MAC last season, and he earned it. He was slinging the ball with the best of them, and he put himself on the radar for NFL scouts. He has the prototypical size, has a good arm, is an upstanding citizen.This season, he was pre-season All-MAC in some publications. There was no reason to refute that, but then the season started. Frohnapfel put up some decent numbers, depending on the opponent, and to the casual observer it looked much the same as last year. But that wasn't the case. Frohnapfel was missing far more throws than normal, and his accuracy was never his strong point. He was taking a sack when he should have thrown it away, forcing a pass when he should have taken a sack, scrambling too soon when he should have held his ground. Just a litany of bad decisions every week, and they were coming at the worst times.
Nearly every interception Frohnapfel has thrown this year has been back-breaking for the Minutemen. Every time it has destroyed any momentum they've had and the team has started to spiral from there. Now there is blame to be shared there, the team has been emotionally fragile this year and that's no good either, but Frohnapfel has been a factory of bad decisions so far, and it was never more evident than tonight's game against Kent State. Aside from throwing a back-breaking interception into triple coverage, he missed numerous throws, showed little to no chemistry with his receivers (not even Tajae Sharpe) and stepped out of the back of his own end zone for a safety. HE STEPPED OUT OF THE BACK OF HIS OWN END ZONE. The lack of awareness you have to have to do something like that is mind-boggling, and he should have been sat down the second he got back to the bench (he also had the stones to say something to the referee, like it was the ref's fault he didn't know where he was).
The bottom line is that it can't get any worse for UMass this year, so you may as well get the kid you hope is going to be your starter for the next three seasons in Comis.
Our Editor-In-Chief here Alex Alvarado wrote a piece not too long ago preaching patience for the Eastern Michigan Eagles and their program, talking about how it takes time (more time than most people want) to make an FBS team successful. Now EMU and UMass aren't in the exact same situation, but the fact remains that the rationale applies to both: "Rome was not built in a day." This is year four in FBS for UMass, and they are working their way up. They were never going to win right away, because a move from FCS to FBS is supposed to be hard. It requires a solid plan and a great deal of patience.
UMass belongs in FBS, and I'll tell anyone who will listen. I give so much to this team, there are so many like me that give just as much or more, but far too often it seems like the team gives nothing back to us.
To come out and perform the way they did against Kent State, on UMass' homecoming, is an embarrassment. It felt like the team didn't care, and that is unforgivable. It seems like this team has absolutely no idea just how important the 2015 season is to the future of the program. The team needed to get their brand out there, to advertise to potential conference suitors, to show the college football world that they were worth taking seriously. This team needed to show improvement, needed to show that it could be at the very least eligible for a bowl game this season.
With the returning starters they had at key positions, and the weak schedule through conference play, getting to six wins would be a challenge, but not impossible. And they have come out so flat, they've essentially given away their year.
The team sits at 1-5, and they are staring 1-6 in the face with a ranked Toledo Rockets team coming to Gillette Stadium next weekend. They are not going to win that game. So now, they have to win every game they have left in order to even reach .500. The way this team has performed, that's an insane pipe dream. Yesterday was a must-win situation and they played their worst game of the year. And the Minutemen beat them 40-17 last year.
What the UMass football team needs to do is show me, show every one of its fans, that it deserves that level of support, that it is worth caring about. Even though they'll almost certainly lose, they can start next week against Toledo.
So long as you do that UMass football, I'll be there to cheer you on.