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UMass looks to rebound against Big 12 foe Kansas State

Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar t during the first half of their NCAA football game against Maine in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar t during the first half of their NCAA football game against Maine in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

By MARK CHIARELLI Gazette Contributing Writer
Friday, September 13, 2013
(Published in print: Saturday, September 14, 2013)

The University of Massachusetts travels to Kansas State this weekend, hoping to put a difficult loss to Maine in the rearview mirror and play spoiler against a the potentially susceptible Wildcats.

UMass coach Charley Molnar hoped his team would head into Saturday’s game with a positive mindset despite last week’s loss.

“This is a resilient group of men,” he said. “The sting of defeat still lingers with them, but we’ve moved on and have our eyes set on the next goal, which is beating Kansas State.”

The Minutemen will have a new starting quarterback, as Molnar announced Wednesday that sophomore A.J. Doyle would make his second career start.

“We’re just anxious to get a win streak going, put some wins together, as we head into the MAC,” Doyle said Monday. “It starts by the offense putting up points. We scored 14 points in two games, the offense has to play a lot better.”

Doyle has his work cut out for him facing Kansas State, a Big 12 team that also lost to Championship Subdivision opponent this season. K-State fell to North Dakota State in their opener.

“Defensively, the best way I can say this is they are a very sound, bend-but-don’t-break defense,” Molnar said in his weekly teleconference. “They make a lot of big plays and they have good speed at the linebacker position. They are also big and strong up front, so they are a typical Big 12 defense. We will certainly have our work cut out for us.”

The Minutemen will look to improve and be aggressive on defense. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is wary of giving UMass opportunities.

“Defensively, I think that they fly around pretty well,” Snyder said. “I think they have an aggressive back seven that fly to the ball and up front they can hold their own.”

Molnar was optimistic about his defense’s opportunistic style, especially after the start against Maine.

“Obviously, every defense is trying to accumulate as many turnovers as it can and I think our defense is aggressive,” he said. “We will continue to try and play the ball in the air and help get the offense the ball or score on defense.”

Time & location: 7 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

Records: UMass is 0-2; K-State is 1-1.

Last week: UMass fell to Maine, 24-14. Kansas State beat Louisiana Lafayette, 48-27.

All-time series: Kansas State leads 2-0

Last meeting: Kansas State def. UMass 21-17 in 2009.

TV/Internet: There is a live stream available through K-StateSports.com; www.weei.com/UMass

Radio: WWEI-FM (105.5)

When UMass has the ball: Through the first two games of the season, Doyle completed 12-of-24 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in backup duty. It’s unclear whether Molnar will work former starter Mike Wegzyn into the game in a limited capacity like he has done with Doyle in the past.

The Minutemen will be without would-be starters Jordan Broadnax and Shakur Nesmith. Tight end Rob Blanchflower is a game-time decision.

Stacey Bedell and Tajae Sharpe have picked up much of the slack offensively. Bedell has carried the ball 35 times for 128 yards, while Sharpe has 12 catches for 98 yards.

Defensively, Kansas State offers a true group effort. Seven different players have more than 10 tackles. Defensive end Ryan Mueller and linebacker Blake Slaughter each have two sacks. Safety Ty Zimmerman returned an interception for a touchdown a week ago.

When Kansas State has the ball: Throughout the week, Molnar made it a point to mention both Kansas State quarterbacks. Jake Waters and Daniel Sams are attempting to fill the void left by Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein a year ago.

Waters has completed 43-of-60 passes for 558 yards and two scores, but he’s also thrown four interceptions. Sams has attempted only two passes this year, but is averaging 8.0 yards per carry (10 for 80 yards) and two touchdowns.

Running back John Hubert was named first-team All Big-12 a year ago, but has struggled early on. Hubert’s gained only 98 yards through two games, settling for 2.8 yards per carry. Kansas State possesses burner-type speed on the outside with receivers Tyler Lockett (15 catches, 224 yards) and Tramaine Thompson (eight for 154).

UMass (zero sacks) needs to improve on its pass rush. Ed Saint-Vil has recorded 20 tackles to pace the Minutemen.

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