After four frustrating weeks to start the season, each one bringing another loss with it, the Minutemen used their bye week to lick their wounds before beginning preparations for conference play.
“The guys used the off-week to watch film of the season and the first four games and are scratching their heads over some of the mistakes that were made,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said, according to a transcript of his weekly conference call. “I believe we can grow over the coming weeks and start to make a move in the Mid-American Conference.
“That does not mean we are going to win the league and it does not mean we are going to win the MAC East. I believe we are going to play better as the season goes on.”
At this stage of their transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision, clear steps forward on and off the field would be welcomed by both the Minutemen (0-4) and their fans.
In Week 6, Molnar’s men travel to Bowling Green, Ohio, to take on the Falcons (4-1, 2-0 MAC). The Minutemen’s hosts on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3) are second in the MAC in both rushing yards (207.4) and passing yards (280.0) per game and third in the MAC in scoring offense (32.8 points per game).
UMass, meanwhile, is last in the conference in scoring average (7.0) and second-to-last in both rushing yards (96.5) and passing yards (162.0) per game.
Molnar was full of praise for the Falcons on Monday.
“Their quarterback is where it begins,” he said. “The offense goes with him. Matt Johnson is a dual-threat quarterback who throws the ball well. His completion percentage is over the top right now at about 67 percent and he has good command of the offense. Rarely do they run a bad play or does he make a mistake.
“I have not seen every running back from the MAC yet, but I can tell you Travis Greene is at the top end. The offensive line keeps getting better and I think they have the line exactly where they need it to be.”
Johnson is 92-for-138 passing for 1,229 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, and has rushed 40 times for 99 yards and a touchdown. Greene enters the game second in the MAC in rushing yards (551) and rushing yards per game (110.20).
In a 31-14 win over Akron in Week 5, Johnson threw for 229 yards and two TDs -- including one to Greene -- and Greene rushed 24 times for 142 yards and a score.
Molnar called his players “resilient” and said he’s sure they’re making progress.
“I'm hoping the team spent a lot of time watching video from last year,” he said. “We are a whole lot better than we were a year ago. We are excited to go out on the field and show the MAC how our football team has improved.”
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.