Opponent outlook: UMass trying to move on

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

With just over a minute to play Saturday, UMass (0-2) was on track for its first college football victory of the season.

The Minutemen couldn't hold on in those final 80 seconds.

Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel threw a 16-yard TD pass to Jamal Wilson for a 23-20 lead over Temple. The Owls blocked the PAT and returned it for two points. Then, with seven seconds left, Austin Jones hit a 25-yard field goal and Temple won, 25-23.

Somehow, UMass must regroup in time to head to South Bend Saturday to battle No. 6 Notre Dame (3-0).

The game was set up a few years ago when former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar (2010-11) was the UMass head coach. Molnar, now wide receivers coach at Idaho, lasted just two seasons (2012-13) at the UMass helm. Mark Whipple has the opportunity to bring the Minutemen to Notre Dame Stadium.

Matt Vautour, UMass football beat writer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, gives fans an idea of what they should know about the Minutemen.

ND Insider: What does a trip to Notre Dame mean for the UMass program?

Matt Vautour: While I don't think even the most wildly-optimistic fans are expecting to win, I think to UMass fans, playing games like this make them feel like the program has really reached a national stage. Playing one of the sport's brand name banner-carrying programs on national television is something they've been excited about since the game was announced. If the game is competitive, they'll be ecstatic.

NDI: How will the team respond after such a disappointing loss to Temple?

Vautour: Hard to say. They've taken some pretty rough fourth-quarter losses in the past two years and bounced back pretty well. Still that one was pretty rough.

NDI: How has the program changed since former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar left (after the 2013 season) as head coach?

Vautour: Molnar was a bad fit. He struggled to lay the foundation for a program in transition (from FCS to FBS). His system didn't fit the personnel and his players haven't been shy in talking about how little they liked playing for him. His strength was recruiting and the new staff has reaped the benefits of some talented players.

What would have to go right for UMass to have an opportunity to pull off an upset?

Vautour: UMass will pull out all the stops with trick plays, etc. Notre Dame would need to turn the ball over, maybe multiple times, and the Minutemen will need to be sharp throughout. The Irish looking ahead to Clemson wouldn't hurt either.

What has joining the Mid-American Conference (in 2012) meant for the UMass program, other than trips to such paradises as Muncie, Ind., and DeKalb, Ill.?

Vautour: Out of the gate, it looked like the best available landing spot for them as they're growing into being a competitive member. But since the MAC is pushing them out after this season (UMass was added as a No. 14 team when they were invited, but Temple left), it has left the Minutemen without a conference. With no bowl tie-ins or TV contract, independence could be pretty difficult leaving them in a tough spot.

Massachusetts quarterback Blake Frohnapfel pitches the ball in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Temple at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)