UMass wants to end football season on a high note

UMass quarterback Blake Fronhnapfel, on a keeper here against Ball State Nov. 12, is 50-50 to play Friday night against Buffalo. (AP Photo/The Republican, J. Anthony Roberts)
J. Anthony Roberts/AP
UMass quarterback Blake Fronhnapfel, on a keeper here against Ball State Nov. 12, is 50-50 to play Friday night against Buffalo.

After a season of growth and change, triumph and heartache, only one game remains in the 2014 schedule for the University of Massachusetts football team.

But just who will call the final game of the season from under center is a mystery.

During the Mid-American Conference’s weekly teleconference Monday morning, UMass coach Mark Whipple indicated that starting quarterback Blake Frohnapfel was 50-50 to play against Buffalo Friday afternoon at McGuirk Stadium.


With his star quarterback still hampered by a right leg injury, Whipple said the Minutemen (3-8, 3-4 MAC) would “probably go with [Austin] Whipple” as the signal-caller.

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Whipple, the coach’s son, had his first start as conductor of the Minuteman offense last Tuesday at Akron, but the results were mixed as the Zips coasted to a 30-6 victory.

Having not taken a competitive snap since playing for the Salisbury School in Connecticut in 2012, Whipple managed his father’s pro-style offense well, completing 12 of 20 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. Despite completing 60 percent of his passes, three of the eight incompletions by the redshirt freshman were interceptions.

Buffalo (4-6, 2-4) will arrive in Amherst well-rested, not having played since ending a four-game skid by defeating Akron, 55-24, Nov. 11.

The Bulls were scheduled to host Kent State Nov. 19, but record-setting snowfall of more than 7 feet resulted in the game being cancelled and each team having its respective season shortened to 11 games.


For Whipple and the UMass offense, Buffalo may afford an opportunity to cap their turnaround season on a high note. The Bulls are 73d in the nation in total defense, allowing more than 31 points per game.

Entering Week 14 of the season, the Minutemen are ranked seventh in the FBS in passing offense, racking up an average of 324.8 yards per contest.

Frohnapfel started the first 10 games for the Minutemen, accounting for all but one of UMass’s 438 passing attempts. A graduate student from Stafford, Va., Frohnapfel had accrued 3,345 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air. He suffered an injury to his right leg in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 victory over Ball State Nov. 12 and has been sidelined since.

Should he not take a snap Friday, Frohnapfel would finish with one of the best seasons of any quarterback in the 131-year history of the UMass football program.

Monday he was named the recipient of the 76th annual George H. “Bulger” Lowe Award presented by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston. The award honors the best offensive and defensive players in New England (Harvard defensive end Zach Hodges was the defensive honoree).


Frohnapfel is second among UMass quarterbacks for passing yards in a season (Todd Bankhead had 3,919 in 1998), and seventh on the all-time passing yards list.

Formerly a backup at Marshall, Frohnapfel wrapped up his undergraduate degree in three years and came to Amherst with two years of eligibility remaining.

Barring a change, of course, he will return under center for the Minutemen in 2015.

Andrew MacDougall can be reached at andrew.macdougall