BOSTON (CBS) – The UMass Minutemen return to Gillette Stadium on Saturday for their “home opener” against the Maine Black Bears.

UMass fell to the Wisconsin Badgers 45-0 in their season opener last weekend, but head coach Charley Molnar was pleased with strides his team has made following their first season in FBS play last year.

“The biggest thing was our guys have improved quite a bit form last season. The score didn’t indicate it, but we played fairly clean,” Molnar told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Marc Bertrand for their weekly chat. “We had some errors and some penalties I wish we could have had back, but our offensive line has improved tremendously from a year ago. We were able to manage a run game and protect the quarterback. We had no sacks of TFL, just a couple pressures and really that was due to the coverage than anything else.”

More: UMass Football Homepage

“On defense we had 54 plays where we held Wisconsin to under 150 yards on offense, and then we had a dozen plays where the roof caved in. If we can eliminate half those plays against an opponent like Wisconsin, who knows how the game can end up,” he said. “We’ve made great strides and really have improved in all areas.”

UMass takes on a FCS foe in Maine, so does Molnar view this weekend’s matchup as a “must win”?

“Every game I’ve coached I’ve felt like it’s a must-win, so this one is no different for me,” he said. “We are only two years removed from FCS; a lot of our players were recruited as FCS players and these are guys we’re counting on. We have some guys that played against Maine, and the last time they lined up against the Black Bears, if I remember it correct, they handed it to the Minutemen. These guys will hopefully remember that and want to go out and show them how much they’ve improved.”

Stats: UMass Minutemen Team Page

“Obviously as a head coach I want to show where our team is at and that we’re making strides — that we’re climbing more of the FBS division and away from that FCS division. Saturday will be a good indicator of where we’re at.”

Molnar also talks about slowing down a tough Maine offense led by quarterback Marcus Wasilewski, and what it will be like to play games at both Gillette and Amherst in 2014:


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