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UMass football team in good position following season’s first win

Holding a 13 star colonial flag Massachusetts defensive lineman Brandon Potvin (95) kneels after taking the field for an NCAA college football game against Miami Ohio in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Holding a 13 star colonial flag Massachusetts defensive lineman Brandon Potvin (95) kneels after taking the field for an NCAA college football game against Miami Ohio in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Monday, October 14, 2013
(Published in print: Tuesday, October 15, 2013)

After the University of Massachusetts football team beat Akron last year for its first victory, the Minutemen proceeded to drop their final two games.

Minuteman coach Charley Molnar thinks his team is better positioned to build off Saturday’s win over Miami (Ohio) than it was last season.

“Our team has more experience than it did a year ago,” Molnar said. “We were new at that winning thing after that win over Akron. We didn’t go out there thinking we had it figured out. We knew we had a lot of work to do. ... We didn’t have the depth that we have today or the experience we have today. Those two things come as a matter of course as your team matures. We still have a ways to go from a maturity stand point and a depth standpoint, but we’re in a better position today than we were in a year ago at this time.”

UMass (1-5, 1-1 MAC) has six games remaining, beginning with Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. tilt at Buffalo.

INJURIES — UMass’ injury report was released Monday and had wide receiver Shakur Nesmith, running back Jordan Broadnax and linebacker Steve Casali inactive for Monday’s practice. Safety Joey Colton and linebackers Trey Seals and Tom Brandt had limited participation in practice.

MORE OPPORTUNITIES — After UMass’ earlier loss to Maine, there were people speculating on the possibility of a winless season. But after beating Miami, the Minutemen could be favored in two more games. There are two teams without an FBS win scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium this season.

Western Michigan (0-7) is coming off a 33-0 loss to Buffalo. Would-be starting quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen has an arm injury, which may or may not affect him on Oct. 26 when the Broncos visit Foxborough.

Akron (1-6) beat Championship Subdivision foe James Madison 35-33 on Sept. 7, but hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent since the 2010 season. Akron has shown some promise this year. It hung with Michigan on Sept. 14 and Northern Illinois Saturday, but still lost both games, 28-24 and 27-20 respectively.

The Zips visit Gillette on Nov. 16.

BAHAMAS BOWL — The MAC revealed Monday its affiliation with the newly formed Bahamas Bowl, which will be played in Nassau beginning in 2014.

The Bahamas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl and the Camellia Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.) are all new and will all feature MAC schools. Along with the GoDaddy.com Bowl (Mobile, Ala.) and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, Idaho), the conference is now guaranteed five bowls beginning next year. The conference has multiple secondary affiliations where a MAC school would be invited if a bowl’s primary conference doesn’t have enough eligible schools.

Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said this was a good step for the MAC.

“Last year was a great year. We got seven teams involved in bowls. The reality of it is, if there weren’t so many teams outside of our conference that were ineligible to go to bowls, we wouldn’t have got seven teams,” Clawson said. “With only three guaranteed (bowl slots), it’s possible a team could win seven or eight games and not go to a bowl. Now if you take care of your own product, there’s a good chance you’ll go to a bowl. You’re not dependent on other teams in other conferences losing games to open up a slot.”

MAC Commissioner John Steinbrecher said more secondary bowl affiliations could be announced in the next two weeks.

THINK PINK — To raise awareness for breast cancer Saturday, the Minutemen replaced the maroon in their helmets with pink and used pink socks and towels as well.

“Our players have a real great sense of the breast cancer awareness initiative,” Molnar said. “Our guys told some personal stories about how breast cancer affected their lives. Wearing pink wasn’t just to put on some cool swag today. I think a lot of guys took a moment to reflect on loved ones who have been affected by breast cancer. For a group of relatively inexperienced young men who haven’t really been out in the world yet, to understand how devastating some of these things are, I’m really proud of their actions and how they talked about it and how they want to make a difference.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.