Recounting UMass’s Best Moments at Gillette

Earlier this week, we wrote about UMass moving their 2019 games against UConn and BYU from Gillette to McGuirk Alumni Stadium. This marks the end of the UMass-Gillette partnership in the foreseeable future and its probably for the better.

From 2012-2019, UMass went 2-19 at Gillette and was outscored 685-418, an average score of 33-20. While the wins were not many, there were still a few games of note for the Minutemen at the “House that Brady Built.”

T-5.) UMass Proves They Can Play With the Power 5

These are both on the list, because UMass let Power Five wins slip away. In 2014, UMass actually held an 11-point third quarter lead on Colorado, until the Buffaloes scored 21 unanswered to take a 41-31 lead in the early 4th quarter.

A six-yard Marken Michel touchdown run made it a one-score game with less than three minutes remaining, but the defense could not get the ball back to the Minutemen offense.

Blake Frohnapfel of UMass and Sefo Liufau dueled it out through the air, with both throwing for three touchdowns. Liufau had 318 through the air, while Frohnapfel threw for 267.

Two years later, UMass would give Mississippi State, outfitted in Patriots themed uniforms, a run for their money. The Minutemen held a 14-13 halftime lead over the Bulldogs, the first of two years in a row of UMass holding halftime leads on Mississippi State, which culminated in the Minutemen taking a 20-13 advantage into the break the following year over the 16th-ranked Bulldogs.

Like in the Colorado game, UMass withered in the second half, as Mississippi State rode a four-touchdown third quarter on the way to a 47-35 win. Nick Fitzgerald shined for Mississippi State, throwing for 305 yards and three touchdowns in addition to 110 on the ground.

Andrew Ford and Marquis Young starred for the Minutemen, with Ford throwing for 273 and four touchdowns and Young adding 125 and a touchdown on the ground.

4.) UMass beat #19 Toledo by 18! (for a half)

UMass had a chance to play spoiler against an undefeated Toledo team that came into the game a front runner for a New Year’s Six birth with two victories over Power Five squads.

UMass burst out of the gates to take a 28-10 halftime lead on the strength of three Blake Frohnapfel touchdown passes. The Rockets ignited in the second half scoring a staggering 38 unanswered points on the way to a 51-35 victory.

Toledo’s two-headed punch of Terry Swanson and Kareem Hunt combined for 208 yards, and Phillip Ely aided their balanced attack with 355 yards and 5 touchdowns.

For UMass, All-American Tajae Sharpe hauled in 12 passes for 159 yards and caught two of Frohnapfel’s four touchdowns.

3.) Temple Barely Escapes UMass

Close calls with elite teams was a recurring theme in 2015 for UMass. In addition to the Toledo game mentioned above, the Minutemen gave Temple all they could handle and were competitive against #6 Notre Dame in front of an NBC audience. Against Temple, UMass fought back from a 14-0 deficit to take a 23-20 lead with 1:20 left in the game.

However, in one of the most unlucky endings in recent memory, Temple would block the extra point and returned it for a controversial two points of their own. Instead, of being down 24-20, and needing a touchdown to win, the Owls found themselves only down by one and needing a field goal to win. PJ Walker quickly led Temple down the field to set up Austin Jones’s game-winning 32-yard field goal with 12 seconds left which made the score 25-23.

Blake Frohnapfel and PJ Walker each threw for over 390 yards with Frohnapfel tossing three touchdowns to Walker’s one.

Tajae Sharpe and Rodney Mills both topped 100 receiving yards with Sharpe catching 11 passes for 156 yards and Mills hauling in five aerials for 104 and two touchdowns.

Although this loss was a tough pill for UMass fans to swallow, Temple would start 7-0 and would not only appear on Saturday night football versus #9 Notre Dame, but would also have College Gameday show up in the City of Brotherly Love.

None of this would have happened if that extra point was not returned by Temple. Sorry, Minuteman fans, but I’d have to say we were all better because of this. Thank you for taking one for the team.

2.) UMass’s First FBS Home Win

 

Finally, a win makes this list, with UMass defeating Miami 17-10 in 2013. UMass was winless in their first seven FBS home games including an ugly 24-14 loss to former Yankee Conference/Atlantic Ten/Colonial Athletic Association cohort Maine.

The Minutemen scored 10 unanswered points to overcome a 10-7 deficit, with future draft pick Rob Blanchflower scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a tipped 47-yard pass from A.J.Doyle on a play that showed shades of John Mackey in Super Bowl IV.

The defense stymied Austin Boucher, causing him to complete 14-34 passing and throw two interceptions to Khary Bailey-Smith. Jamal Wilson starred on offense with 146 all-purpose yards, while A.J. Doyle ruled and threw for 249 and two touchdowns.

The win would not be much of a resume win as Miami would end the season 0-12 and fire their coach Don Treadwell after the first five games.

1.)  The Minutemen Shoot Down the Eagles

UMass’s second and last win at Gillette was more impressive than the first by a long shot. UMass controlled the action, jumping to 20-7 and 30-14 leads in the first half.

Shadrach Abrokwah had a field day, rushing for 135 yards and 4 touchdowns, and the Frohnapfel-to-Sharpe connection was in full effect as Tajae Sharpe had 13 receptions for 193 yards and Blake Frohnapfel threw for 337 yards.

The opposition was stronger than in their last win, even if it was not by that much as EMU would finish 2-10 with a win over 5-6 Buffalo.

Honorable Mentions:

2016 vs  Louisiana Tech:

This was an otherwise boring game that Louisiana Tech won 56-28, but look at Carlos Henderson’s stat line for this game.

We could not ignore this.

2013 vs Vanderbilt and the Battles of the Bay State

These were similar to the first two games, except UMass never led and the gaps were wider. The Minutemen trailed a Vanderbilt team that would finish #24 in the AP poll  10-7 heading into the 4th quarter before Vandy scored two 4th quarter touchdowns.

BC pulled away from UMass in 2013 and 2016, scoring 10 unanswered in the 4th quarter to win 30-7 in 2013 and 13 unanswered in the last 19 minutes to win the 2016 edition of the Battle of the Bay State 26-7.

While Gillette may not give UMass fans the best memories, there are plenty of memorable moments nonetheless. In Foxboro, the Minuteman proved they could play with quality teams and at least defeat MAC competition and that counts for something.

 

 

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