As Bowling Green’s Dwayne Woods scampered into the end zone after picking off UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn, a hush fell over a sparsely filled Gillette Stadium.
UMass’ offense, and its fans, had been silenced again.
The Minutemen appeared overmatched against a large and experienced Bowling Green defense, mustering only 118 yards of total offense. The Falcons, who had their own problems against an aggressive and rejuvenated UMass defense, shut out the Minutemen 24-0.
“There was no excuse for us to go out there and not perform at a higher level,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “Defensively, I thought they played the best they had all year. They tackled well and stopped the run. Offensively we couldn’t put any wind in their sails, we couldn’t give them any life. Offensively we just didn’t have it today.”
UMass’ defense bounced back after a disappointing performance at Western Michigan on Oct. 6. The Minutemen held Bowling Green 2.5 yards per rush, shutting down the Falcons’ feature back, Anthon Samuel. While Falcon quarterback Matt Schilz had two touchdown passes, he only put up 188 yards passing and never seemed comfortable in the pocket.
The Minutemen were led by a pair of true freshmen. Linebacker Kassan Messiah had 16 tackles, while D’Metrius Williams looked like a seasoned cornerback with seven tackles and three pass breakups.
“They’re outstanding. They took the loss hard. They play hard. They’re talented, but because of their enthusiasm and effort it brings them up another notch,” Molnar said.
At the end of the day, the regression of the UMass offense was too much for its defense to overcome.
Wegzyn’s performance brought back memories of his forgettable outing against UConn on Aug. 30 when he threw for 56 yards and an interception. Against Bowling Green, Wegzyn had 23 yards and two interceptions and lacked the poise that started to surface against Miami (OH) and Ohio. He over- or under-threw passes downfield, missed open receivers in the flats and forced the ball into non-existant windows.
In short, he looked like a freshman.
“Today he just wasn’t himself. He does a lot of tough things every week in practice and today he just couldn’t do them,” Molnar said. “We have to go back and see and make sure he feels confident in what he does and what he is doing, and if we’ve got too much on his plate we got to take some off.”
Wegzyn took the loss particularly hard.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t know what else to say about it right now. It’s the most frustrated I’ve been in awhile,” Wegzyn said.
Fans muttered for true freshman A.J. Doyle after three quarters of subpar play from Wegzyn, but not much changed after Molnar made the switch. Doyle was put in an awkward quarterbacking dichotomy – he either handed the ball off or went deep. At the end of the day, he had 10 yards passing and two interceptions.
While quarterback play faltered, UMass also never got anything going on the ground. Mike Cox had 40 yards on 10 carries and never had a chance to get into a groove.
Below are the game notes from a tale of two units – a stout defense and a lost offense:
D’Metrius Williams’ Tweet is Overblown: At halftime, Williams retweeted some of the praise he was getting for his first-half performance and tweeted that – in different words – he was going to have a good second half. Hustle Belt posted the tweets, and that was then picked up by Deadspin. That, of course, made the whole thing go viral.
While looking around Twitter I saw comments saying that he should be suspended, that he was a waste of taxpayer money and a number of other snide remarks. To me, that is disgusting and shows the unfortunate underbelly of Division I athletics. Williams is a true freshman, and he made a mistake. As Molnar said after the game: “He made a mistake and he’ll suffer the consequences, it’s not a death sentence by him in any sense.”
Williams has already said he’s sorry, and to be honest, the kid really was “ballin’” out there.
Rob Blanchflower was Missed: When Rob Blanchflower isn’t playing, UMass doesn’t have a tight end. In this offense, with this quarterback, that’s a bad thing. Throughout the first half of the season, Blanchflower served as Wegzyn’s security blanket. He is a tough blocker at the point of attack and has no problem going over the middle. Molnar said that Blanchflower is still hurt, and he and his staff were hoping to get him back this week, but the medical staff determined that he needed another game off.
“I need Blanchflower. We need Blanchflower,” Molnar said.
Twister Problem: After the game, Molnar said that his young offensive linemen are having a hard time picking up twists, a problem that has allowed defensive ends to get after Wegzyn. He added that his linemen are holding after getting burned on the twist, and it’s something that he hopes gets figured out with experience.
Fan Failure: 10,846 people walked into Gillette Stadium, and I would say there were another several thousand in the parking lot. Throughout the week, UMass hyped this game as the biggest homecoming ever. However, there were only about 800 more people this year against Bowling Green than last year against Villanova at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. In 2010, more than 16,000 showed up to watch the Minutemen lose to Richmond.
Meanwhile, UMass’ new roommate – the New England Revolution – drew 25,534 for its nightcap against the Chicago Fire.
Colter Johnson Punted a Quarter Mile: UMass punter Colter Johnson booted 10 punts for 478 yards, in what was a pretty solid game for the JUCO transfer. Johnson still makes a few mistakes here and there, and on occasion boots a complete dud, but for the most part he has been steady.
Return to Sender: Jordan Broadnax continues to impress as this team’s kick returner. In limited action, Broadnax had two returns for 54 yards, including a tough 34-yard gashing run. Meanwhile, the Minutemen can’t get anything going on punt return and once again finished with negative yardage. Molnar mentioned that there were individual breakdowns on special teams, and one has to imagine that the biggest problem is at punt return.