AMHERST -- Blake Frohnapfel has never started a college football game before. Mark Whipple has never been the head coach of a Football Bowl Subdivision team before. That all changes this afternoon.
Frohnapfel, the transfer from Marshall, leads Whipple’s Minutemen onto the turf at Gillette Stadium as UMass hosts Boston College in year three of the great FBS experiment at the state university.
"Over the course of my career, I was hoping for this to have a chance to start my first college game," said Frohnapfel. "It’ll be my first start, so there’s some pressure there. It’s something I’ve been excited for for a long time, so I’m ready for it."
Frohnapfel is a graduate student in the Isenberg School of Management and has two years of eligibility remaining. He graduated from Marshall in three years.
Last year, he backed up Rakeem Cato, the Conference USA player of the year.
"He wanted to win. He wanted to compete. He wanted to get out here on the field and grow as soon as possible," UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe said. "I could definitely see that he wanted to come in and help the team any way he could."
It’s expected that upwards of 30,000 fans could be in Gillette Stadium for the game.
The Minutemen are coming off their second consecutive 1-11 season, both under Charley Molnar. Molnar was dismissed after the 2013 season, and Whipple was hired on Jan.
It’s not the first time Whipple has been hired at UMass to move the program along.
After leading Brown to a 7-3 record in 1997, he was hired at UMass and promptly led the Minutemen to the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and the NCAA Division I-AA championship.
Whipple did it by playing a pro-style, west coast offense. That’s what he has installed at UMass.
"We’re a work in progress," he said. "We’re still inconsistent, which is to be expected. We probably have too much stuff in. We’re trying to find out what guys fit in what schemes. Our line is coming together. They’re a tight-knit group."
In six years at UMass, he went 49-26 and won three A-10 titles. By his side was defensive coordinator Don Brown, who replaced Whipple as head coach when Whipple took a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now Brown is the defensive coordinator for second-year BC head coach Steve Addazio.
"Obviously, Donny and Mark worked together for a long time. I think we don’t have a great feel for what they’re going to do on defense. There’s no video to watch," said Addazio during a mid-week press conference. "There’s recent Mark Whipple-coached offensive film [from the University of Miami] out there. There’s no recent defensive coordinator film out there.
"I’d really feel more comfortable right now, to tell you the truth, if we were watching 6-7 games of last season like they’re watching us. So I think it’s a disadvantage. It makes me very uncomfortable to be honest with you."
The Eagles were 7-6 last year and 4-4 in the ACC.
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