FACTS & STATS: Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) — Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Eastern Michigan 2-0, Massachusetts 0-3.
Away Record: Eastern Michigan 0-4, Massachusetts 1-3. Neutral Record: Eastern
Michigan 0-0, Massachusetts 0-0. Conference Record: Eastern Michigan 1-1,
Massachusetts 1-2. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Massachusetts Minutemen ended the nation’s longest losing
streak with a victory in their last outing, and will now try to string wins
together as they host the Eastern Michigan Eagles in a Mid-American Conference
clash at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Eastern Michigan put a stop to a losing skid of its own with a 37-27 victory
over Buffalo last weekend (who just fired their head coach). The Eagles ended
the four-game losing streak and will seek back-to-back wins for the first time
UMass owned the nation’s longest losing streak at 12 games, but finally had it
end last Saturday against a Kent State team that has struggled to score points
this season. The Minutemen handled the Golden Flashes, 40-17.
This will be the first time the two MAC programs square off on the field since
UMass joined the conference several years ago. UMass resides in the MAC East
Division, while EMU plays in the West Division.
Eastern Michigan took advantage of a Buffalo team that had been struggling to
finish off games, despite strong offensive performances. The Bulls outgained
the Eagles in the contest, 537-484, in terms of total offensive yardage, but
the Eagles were the ones who built up a 30-13 lead in the fourth quarter to
help down the Bulls. For a team that has struggled to run the ball effectively
this season, the Eagles were effective on the ground.
Reginald Bell racked up 202 yards and three rushing scores on 17 carries,
while teammate Ryan Brumfield had 16 totes for 62 yards and a score. The
Eagles had just three rushing touchdowns coming into the game against Buffalo
this season, and more than doubled that total last Saturday. EMU enters the
contest with UMass averaging 161 rushing ypg.
The offense as a whole needs to build upon that performance last weekend that
put the team over the top for the win. As a unit, the Eagles are averaging
15.2 ppg through six contests, and a mere 271.5 offensive ypg in that span.
Bell took over under center for Rob Bolden in the win over Buffalo, and added
a passing touchdown to his resume. He completed 8-of-13 passing in the game,
and has completed 60 percent of his passes this year. The redshirt freshman
has already gained the eye of UMass coach Mark Whipple, who compared him to
Robert Griffin III.
Defense had been one of the big issues with the Eagles this season. Now that
conference play has started, the Eagles likely won’t give up as many points as
they did to Florida (65) and Michigan State (73). Still, Eastern Michigan
enters the contest averaging 40.2 ppg allowed to opponents, and over 500 yards
of offense on average.
The Bulls, who are a run-heavy team with Anthone Taylor, ran into some trouble
against the Eagles last weekend. Linebacker Anthony Zappone was named the MAC
West Division Defensive Player of the Week for the Eagles after recording a
career-high 13 tackles and three tackles for loss. Eastern Michigan will need
Zappone and Pat O’Connor (9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) to get after UMass
quarterback Blake Frohnapfel and force him to leave the pocket.
Frohnapfel had another stellar day under center last weekend for the
Minutemen, as the transfer quarterback has had a string of powerful contests
yet no results to show for it. The quarterback completed 23-of-38 pass
attempts in the win over Kent State for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He’s
helped the Minutemen reach a 29.4 ppg average this season, and a 314.1 passing
Frohnapfel’s receivers have come a long way since the beginning of the year,
too. Tajae Sharpe only had two receptions in the win over Kent State, but he
leads the UMass team with 43 receptions and 697 yards through the air, adding
four touchdowns. Rodney Mills tops the squad with five receiving scores on 17
receptions. Alex Kenney caught a team-best five passes for 76 yards last
The UMass run game this season had been about as stagnant as any program’s in
the country before the last outing. Running back Lorenzo Woodley finally went
off for the Minutemen, gaining 160 yards and scoring a rushing touchdown on 23
carries in the lopsided win. Entering this matchup with the Eagles, the UMass
backfield averages 94.4 rushing ypg.
While UMass’ offense will be busy trying to out-gain and outscore the Eagles,
the team’s defense will be focused in on Bell and his weapons. The Minutemen
are allowing teams to score 37 ppg and gain 475 ypg of total offense through
seven contests. In that same time frame, the UMass defense has forced eight
turnovers (including just one fumble).
Kassan Messiah notched a team-high 10 tackles against Kent State, with veteran
linebackers Jovan Santos-Knox and Stanley Andre not far behind with nine and
eight stops each, respectively. Since Bell is an extremely mobile signal
caller, Santos-Knox and Andre will have to be ready for whatever look the
Eagles show offensively. The Minutemen have recorded 40 tackles for loss this
season, along with eight quarterback hurries. Containing Bell will be the key
The Eagles have shown this season that offense and scoring enough points to
stay competitive have been problems, and the Minutemen have had no issue in
the past three weeks scoring points (at least 40 in every game since Sept.
27). Bell provides a different look to the Eastern Michigan offense, but it
may not be enough to hang with the Minutemen in Massachusetts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Massachusetts 37, Eastern Michigan 28