BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The University of Massachusetts football team had a second consecutive impressive start but dropped its Mid-American Conference opener, 28-7, to Bowling Green on Saturday at Doyt L. Perry Stadium.
Despite the loss, UMass coach Charley Molnar said he’s proud of his team for playing hard from the first snap until the final whistle, but some mental and physical mishaps kept the Minutemen from digging in during the second quarter.
“I need to help the team play smarter,” Molnar said. “The team we played is so good, we can’t afford to make those mistakes.”
It didn’t help that two of the Minutemen’s starters, Kevin Byrne (non-football issue) and Ed Saint-Vil (injury), did not play.
Molnar said his responsibility as a coach, win or lose, is to look ahead to the next opponent with a clean slate.
“You can’t wait to get into the office and get ready for the next one,” the coach said of MAC conference play. “We knew [Bowling Green] was a good team from last [season].”
Neither UMass (0-5, 0-1) nor Bowling Green (5-1, 3-0) could gain much offensive traction in the first quarter as each team punted four times with the Falcons entering UMass territory just once.
Even though the Minutemen held the Falcons scoreless in the first quarter, Molnar wasn’t totally satisfied with his team’s play.
“It wasn’t nearly a complete performance,” he said. “It was nothing-nothing and our team was very good on defense, but offensively we were three-and-out, three-and-out.”
“I think they have a good front,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said of the UMass defense. “We struggled to block them last year, and I thought early in the game we struggled to block them this year.
“I thought, as the game wore on, we wore them down.”
Bowling Green found its footing in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead.
About halfway through, the Falcons’ Ronnie Moore caught a short pass from Matt Johnson and sprinted 51 yards up the middle untouched for a touchdown after the defense seemed to freeze on a play-action fake handoff.
Then, William Houston punched it in from the 1-yard line, capping an 11-play, 70-yard drive with 1:15 left in half.
“We came out in the second half with less gas in the tank than I would have liked,” said Molnar, as the team’s lack of depth caught up with it.
Bowling Green was efficient in the third quarter, as the Falcons posted 14 points on just 11 plays. A wide-open Tyler Beck caught a 23-yard pass from Johnson, and easily scored with 10:10 left in third quarter. Heath Jackson added a 9-yard touchdown catch from Johnson at the 5:10 mark in the third.
UMass, which only had 280 yards of offense, got on the board with 4:34 left in the game when Mike Wegzyn hit Tajae Sharpe, who made a leaping grab in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback A.J. Doyle started the game and completed 4 of 17 passes for 20 yards. Wegzyn, a third-year sophomore who entered the game in the third quarter, was 7 of 8 for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Molnar insisted after the game that there won’t be a quarterback controversy. Wegzyn put up the better numbers but they came with the game out of hand.
Sharpe led UMass with three receptions for 38 yards and his third touchdown of the season.
One bright spot for the Minutemen was redshirt sophomore running back Jamal Wilson, who had 20 carries for 119 yards. He had a 51-yard run with his team pinned at its 2-yard line.
“Jamal had a great opportunity today, and I’m really proud of him,” Molnar said.
Bowling Green rushed for 232 yards, with Travis Greene gaining 160 yards on 22 carries.
Even though the Falcons gained just 10 yards through the air in the first quarter, Johnson finished the game with 166 yards and three touchdowns.