Kansas State might be rolling with a two quarterback system, but Massachusetts is still trying to figure out which guy is its best option going forward.
Although returning starter Mike Wegzyn was named the Minutemen’s starter before the season, backup AJ Doyle has seen significant time in the team’s two losses this season, and has put up competitive numbers.
Wegzyn, who started 11 of 12 games last season, is 22 of 48 for 212 yards and one touchdown this season with two interceptions. Doyle, meanwhile, has competed 12 of 24 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The best game for both players was this past week, in UMass’ 24-14 loss to Maine. Wegzyn threw for 139 yards and a touchdown, putting the Minutemen ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.
But UMass (0-2) was held scoreless by the Black Bears offense until the fourth quarter, when Doyle entered the game and threw for a touchdown. Doyle finished with 62 yards.
UMass coach Charley Molnar said the offense made too many mistakes, no matter the quarterback, to beat Maine.
“We had a lot of confidence and what typically happens with teams who haven’t won a lot of football games with a lot of young players is we just had small, individual breakdowns,” he said. “It certainly hurt us offensively. It could have been anything from an errant throw to a misread by the quarterback to an offensive lineman oversetting on a defensive end. All those small accumulation of errors added up to a very poor offensive performance.”
UMass’ quarterback situation isn’t too similar to K-State’s though, as the Wildcats (1-1) feature two diverse quarterbacks, one that is used more for passing and another for running. While both are said by coach Bill Snyder to be able to run and pass, UMass’ signal callers have stuck to passing more than anything else.
Molnar said there is a lot to like about the quarterback tandem at K-State.
“They also have two quarterbacks who can run the ball effectively,” he said. “Neither one is Collin Klein, but certainly they are both pretty good. When the sophomore, Daniel Sams comes in, he can really run. You know when he goes in, they are going to do a lot of different things with the read-option and things like that.”
In two games this season, the Minutemen have been torched on the ground. Wisconsin racked up 393 rushing yards in week one, and Maine added 247 on the ground in week two.
Despite that, Molnar thought his defense was improved in its performance from the 45-0 loss to Wisconsin in week one. Molnar thought Maine, which possessed the ball 15 minutes longer than UMass, left his defense tired.
When he looks at the Wildcats, though, he is worried about the speed on the offensive side of the ball.
“They have great speed at their wide receiver position, it’s almost like they are a 4x100 meter relay team when they put four wide receivers out there,” he said. “These guys can really fly and that in and of itself will be a challenge for us.”
Defensively, Molnar described K-State’s defense as a “bend, but don’t break,” unit with speed at linebacker and size along the defensive line. But whether they would be playing the Wildcats or another FCS team this week, Molnar said they have to get better than they were last week.
“Overall, it was disappointing and certainly we’re regrouping and looking forward to playing Kansas State,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing Maine, Kansas State, or anybody else; we go into each and every game with the objective to win. “Our guys are in a good place and I think it would be real easy to get down, but our guys know their best football is ahead of them. Our trajectory is going up and they really believe that we are not too far off.”
It will be the third time UMass and K-State have met, and first since the Wildcats beat the Minutemen 21-17 in 2009, avoiding a loss to open the season.