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Quarterback competition heats up at UMass practice

University of Massachusetts redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Wegzyn, right, attempts a completion during the Minutemen's first football practice of the 2013 season at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. At far left is sophomore quarterback A.J. Doyle (15).

University of Massachusetts redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Wegzyn, right, attempts a completion during the Minutemen's first football practice of the 2013 season at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. At far left is sophomore quarterback A.J. Doyle (15).

By MARK CHIARELLI Gazette Contributing Writer
Monday, September 9, 2013
(Published in print: Tuesday, September 10, 2013)

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar has yet another quarterback competition on his hands.

Molnar pulled starting quarterback Mike Wegzyn at halftime of Saturday’s disappointing 24-14 loss to Maine after Wegzyn threw for 139 yards, completing 13-of-25 passes and throwing a touchdown and interception. His replacement A.J. Doyle also struggled, completing just 7-of-17 passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

The inconsistent play re-opened the battle for the starting spot, a situation Molnar believes will be a positive for UMass as he moves forward with both players gaining first-team practice reps before UMass (2-0) plays at Kansas State (1-1) Saturday at 7 p.m.

“I think competition is always good, it brings out the best in all of our players,” Molnar said. “A.J. stepped up a little bit today and so did Mike, so it will be fun for the next couple days.”

Wegzyn remained focused despite a murky future.

“That’s what you expect being in a college program, there’s gonna be competition no matter what position,” he said. “No matter what position or what place you’re playing at there’s going to be competition for every spot. Quarterbacks just the only one where one guy can play at a time.”

Doyle, who’s replaced Wegzyn in both games this season, understands there’s an opportunity at hand.

“I felt good. I focus every day no matter if I’m taking first- or second-team reps,” Doyle said. “I’m trying to be the starter and do what I can to be the starter.”

While both quarterbacks understand it’s a competition on the field, there’s an effort to maintain a healthy relationship as teammates.

“We’re good friends on and off the field and we joke around with each other,” Wegzyn said. “Whether it’s in the film room or on the field or sitting at lunch over in (Berkshire Dining Commons) we get along. We’re good friends.”

Doyle noted the competition can still trickle into everyday activities.

“Honestly, it’s a little awkward because we’re always together,” Doyle said. “We both have a very good understanding that one of us is going to play and one of us is going to sit.”

Errors and inconsistency Saturday plagued the UMass offense, which gained only 265 yards against Maine. The Minutemen have scored 14 points through two games and Wegzyn believes the Minutemen are restricting themselves.

“A lot of our problems have been self-inflicted. I think we really have decided the first two games we would lose just because of the mistakes we’ve made,” he said. “If we executed like we should it really shouldn’t have been a problem.”

Molnar said his team has to look past previous mistakes and Monday’s practice was the first step.

“I think the mood was really good today, we had a good practice,” Molnar said. “I think the guys are mad. I think we regrouped pretty quickly. We had a spirited Monday practice and we’re ready to move on.”

INJURY UPDATE — Tight end Rob Blanchflower did not practice Monday and is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. He’s listed as a game-time decision for Saturday.

Running back Jordan Broadnax also did not practice Monday and his status for Saturday is uncertain. According to the MaroonMusket, Broadnax is out for the year with an knee injury. Tight end Ricardo Miller, who did not play Saturday,practiced Monday and will play against Kansas State.