FACTS & STATS: Site: McGuirk Stadium (17,000) — Amherst, Massachusetts.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Ball State 2-3, Massachusetts 1-3. Away
Record: Ball State 1-3, Massachusetts 1-4. Neutral Record: Ball State 0-0,
Massachusetts 0-0. Conference Record: Ball State 2-3, Massachusetts 2-3.
Series Record: Series tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The Massachusetts Minutemen jumped back into the loss column after
their last game, but will try to get another win this weekend as they host the
Ball State Cardinals in a Mid-American Conference clash at McGuirk Stadium
UMass had won two consecutive games for the first time since elevating to the
FBS level several years ago by defeating Kent State and Eastern Michigan in
consecutive weeks. But a loss to Toledo on Oct. 25 in the team’s last outing
set them back once again.
Ball State travels to Massachusetts in search of its fourth win this season.
The Cardinals had also won two straight games prior to their last outing, but
were downed by Northern Illinois last Wednesday, 35-21. With three games left
on the schedule and a postseason bid not coming to either team this season,
playing for pride will be the main goal.
The two new conference rivals have met twice before this season on the field,
with the series split down the middle at a game apiece. The first time they
squared off, UMass won back in the 1984 season. The most recent meeting went
to Ball State, which occurred in 1988.
Since switching over to new quarterback Jack Milas from Ozzie Mann, Ball State
had been on a role. The offense seemed rejuvenated after several weeks of
falling just short. But the Cardinals ran up against a tough Northern Illinois
team last weekend, and the team’s two-game win streak came to an end.
Milas struggled for the first time all season in his four starts. He completed
just 16 pass attempts for 174 yards and a touchdown, but threw three
interceptions in the loss, which were the first three he’s throw all season
long. In his four games, Milas has accumulated 923 passing yards with six
touchdowns against three picks. His completion percentage is a bit low,
hovering around 52 percent. But with Milas under center, running back Jahwan
Edwards has been able to pick up the pace.
Edwards, who was a preseason All-MAC favorite at running back, struggled out
of the gate this season, but has since come on strong. The tailback gained 92
yards on 21 carries last week with a touchdown, bringing his season total to
920 yards and nine scores on the ground. Edwards is a main reason the
Cardinals are averaging 26.2 ppg and exactly 150 rushing ypg.
The reason for most of the losses this season for Ball State has to do with
the defense. The Cardinals have put up solid offensive numbers all year (held
to 20 points or less just twice), but haven’t held an opponent to fewer than
21 points in a contest since a 17-13 loss at Iowa. BSU is allowing opponents
to score 27.6 ppg and gain 402.2 offensive ypg through the team’s nine
The Cardinals have been a strong team in forcing turnovers, having gained 11
fumbles this season (tied for eighth in the FBS) with eight interceptions.
Michael Ayers and Sean Wiggins have each notched a team-best two fumble
recoveries apiece, while Eric Patterson has picked off opposing quarterbacks a
team-high three times. Linebacker Ben Ingle tops the squad with 71 tackles,
and Darnell Smith has recorded a team-high four sacks in nine games.
This is the first season since moving up to the FBS level that UMass has won
two games in a season. The Minutemen took down Kent State and Eastern Michigan
in consecutive weeks, and nearly became the first MAC team to defeat Toledo
this season, falling just short in a 42-35 defeat. And once again, it was
transfer quarterback Blake Frohnapfel that was at the heart of the effort,
leading Massachusetts with 438 passing yards and five touchdown tosses, though
he did throw two interceptions.
The two interceptions thrown by Frohnapfel brought his season total to eight,
which is low considering his 393 pass attempts and 23 touchdown completions.
Thanks to Frohnapfel, the Minutemen have scored at least 35 points in each of
their last five games played. Scoring 30.8 ppg, it’s been one of the best
offensive seasons for UMass since moving up from the FCS’ Colonial Athletic
Frohnapfel has been consistently strong in the latter half of the season. It’s
been the Minutemen run game that has struggled to stay consistent. Leading
rusher Shadrach Abrokwah carried the ball just 13 times for 43 yards in the
loss to Toledo, though Toledo’s run defense is exceptionally strong. In just
five games played, Abrokwah has gained 374 yards and scored six touchdowns for
UMass, while Lorenzo Woodley has posted four ground scores of his own.
Since the offense has been blistering in the last five weeks, the blame for
some of the losses (especially early in the season) can be blamed primarily on
the team’s defense. Aside from UMass’ two wins, the Minutemen have allowed at
least 30 points to every opponent this season, including at least 40 points to
five different challengers. Opponents are averaging 35 ppg and 458.3 offensive
ypg in nine contests against Massachusetts.
Linebackers Jovan Santos-Knox and Stanley Andre are at the top of the team’s
leaderboard with 96 and 87 tackles, respectively, while defensive back Joe
Colton trails in third with 75 stops. UMass as a defensive unit has struggled
to get to opposing quarterbacks this season, having registered just 11 sacks
in nine games. Colton tops the team with seven tackles for loss, adding a sack
and three pass breakups to his stat line. Randall Jette and Khary Bailey-Smith
each have a team-best three interceptions.
With an extra week to rest, UMass could be coming out fired up and relatively
healthy. Both squads should post strong offensive numbers, with Edwards and
Milas leading the charge for the visiting Cardinals and Frohnapfel at the helm
for the Minutemen. If Milas can’t shake off his poor week against NIU, Ball
State could crumble against the offensive heavy Minutemen.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 34, Ball State 28