Charley Molnar said his offense took a step back in last week’s 32-3 loss at Buffalo, and that’s not a good thing.
The Minutemen weren’t exactly flying high on that side of the ball anyway, averaging a MAC-low 7.9 points per game in 2013. They can’t afford to regress from that point if they’re to improve on their 1-6 record (1-2 Mid-American Conference).
But they did against the Bulls, with quarterback A.J. Doyle throwing a pick-six to Khalil Mack in the second quarter and finishing 14-for-28 for 162 yards. He had a QBR of 7.7.
UMass finished with 247 yards of total offense, below its season average of 276.7 yards per game (11th in the MAC and 122nd nationally).
“Offensively, we never got on track,” Molnar said Monday in his weekly conference call. “So we really need to get a real jolt of confidence and we need a fast start on both sides of the ball.”
Facing a Western Michigan team (0-8, 0-4 MAC) that has been nearly as hapless on defense (37.5 points per game, 12th in the MAC and 114th nationally) as UMass has been on offense, the Minutemen hope to get back on track Saturday (3:00 p.m. ET on ESPN3) at Gillette Stadium.
“I think it’s a team just like we are -- they’re a hungry football team, which makes them a dangerous football team,” Molnar said of Western Michigan. “The kids are playing hard regardless of their record.”
The Broncos are coming off a 38-17 home loss to Ball State, which followed a 33-0 home loss to Buffalo the week prior.
Western Michigan won the first meeting between the schools 52-14 in 2012, with then-junior signal-caller Tyler Van Tubbergen throwing for five touchdowns and running for another.
As Saturday’s game approaches, the winless Broncos are in a position the Minutemen find familiar.
“We just love to go out and compete. We’ve approached every game the same way regardless of the record of our opponent,” Molnar said when asked if there’s more pressure facing a winless team. “We were in that same category just two short weeks ago where we were a winless opponent. Our approach has always been the same, to go out and do our very, very best. We're hungry to win -- not one game a year but win every single game that we play.
“So I would expect our guys would come out and not feel any added pressures but just whatever internal pressures they feel week in and week out to do their very best.”
It’ll take the Minutemen’s best, especially on offense, to take a clear step forward this week.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.