Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass’ defense struggles as Georgia Southern dominate in the Minutemen’s season opener

UMass allowed 436 yards of total offense in 41-0 loss
Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

After a slow start by the defense, the Massachusetts football team lost its opening game in an unusual 2020 season. Defensive woes continued from last season for the Minutemen (0-1) losing 41-0 in a lopsided affair against Georgia Southern.

Similar to last season, UMass’ defense struggled against the triple-option, allowing the Eagles (3-1, 1-1 Sun Belt) to rush for 308 yards on 41 attempts. Running back Wesley Kennedy III led Georgia Southern with 106 yards and a touchdown on only six carries

After praising his defense all week, Minutemen head coach Walt Bell was more surprised than anything and is looking forward to watching tape on the trip back to Amherst. In spite of a tough loss, Bell continues to have belief in his side for promising outcomes in the future.

“I thought the biggest thing was that they competed,” Bell said. “We’ve got some eye control things we got to clean up, and some things very specific to Georgia Southern. Obviously moving forward, we have no idea if we’re playing another triple option team.”

Despite going down 28-0 in the first half, the Minutemen’s young and inexperienced defense began to pick it up later on in the game, forcing the Eagles to punt twice in the second half, something they weren’t able to do in Georgia Southern’s first six possessions.

Safety Te’Rai Powell contributed with six tackles and two kickoff returns for 35 total yards for UMass in his first collegiate game. Powell landed arguably the biggest hit of the night early in the third quarter, leaving quarterback Shai Werts shaken up after the play and almost recorded what would’ve been the Eagles second turnover of the day. Bell took notice and saw potential in Powell, who many think to be the most talented player for the Minutemen.

“He’s a competitor,” Bell said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids on the team and he’s going to be a leader for this program moving forward.”

Georgia Southern had positive results early in the first half with their passing, leaving members of the Minutemen secondary in the dust on broken coverages. The Eagles took an unconventional approach, as Werts passed for three touchdowns in the first half after only completing three total passes in Georgia Southern’s last game.

In what was the Eagles’ best half of the season, UMass linebacker Da’Shon Ross stripped Werts, accounting for the biggest play of the Minutemen lackluster performance. This looked to spark confidence in UMass’ defense which would slightly improve throughout the rest of the game.

From start to finish, the game was in Georgia Southern’s hands, exploiting UMass’ secondary when passing and its defensive line on the run. Even after an unfortunate loss, Bell is looking at this game beyond what shows up in the win-loss column.

“This was a great learning experience,” Bell said. “What we tell you all week, how we practice, how we prepare, what we talk about and seeing how those things are going to show up in game-like settings hopefully is a wonderful learning experience for these guys.”

Kevin Schuster can be reached at [email protected] and @KevinESchuster on twitter.

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