Garrett Dzuro starts at QB in shutout loss to Liberty

Will Koch out with rib injury

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Parker Peters

Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

Redshirt freshman Garrett Dzuro got the starting nod today in the Massachusetts football team’s 45-0 loss to Liberty as a result of a rib injury sustained by true freshman Will Koch last week against FAU.

Dzuro finished his day completing nine of 22 passes for 172 yards and an interception along with eight rushes for 11 yards.

Dzuro had a performance similar to what we’ve seen from Koch this year, showing flashes of potential as a quarterback, while also showcasing his inexperience in his decision making and accuracy.

A perfect example of this situation is in the third quarter when Dzuro completed a difficult throw on the run to OC Johnson on third and nine to extend the drive, then throwing an interception straight into the hands of a defender the following play.

“I thought he did a great job of driving his eyes to the right place, I thought he did a nice job processing,” said Head coach Walt Bell. “From a decision-making standpoint he was okay. Some physical things to clean up, but as a young player I thought he did well.”

Dzuro’s 172 passing yards today was by far the most of any quarterback for UMass (0-4) this season, as no individual quarterback had more than 100 yards through the air in a single game.

“[Quarterback play] was better, but we still got a long way to go,” Bell said. “We desperately need an offseason to get [Dzuro and Koch] right.”

Redshirt sophomore Josiah Johnson also took snaps at quarterback against the Flames, though he did not attempt any passes. Johnson finished the game with seven rushes for 14 yards and one catch for 17 yards.

After the game, Bell was asked whether or not Johnson would continue to be used in a role comparable to New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill, who is a running specialist quarterback that also shows versatility as a receiver.

“Absolutely, and that’s the ability he gives us,” Bell said. “He’s played quarterback his entire career, but he gives us unbelievable flexibility offensively.”

Quarterback play had been a struggle all season that Bell had pointed out himself, which is shown looking at only one touchdown thrown on 331 pass attempts in comparison to five interceptions thrown.

Though it falls on the quarterback’s stat line, that also does not mean that they are the ones to blame for the entirety of UMass’ offensive struggles, as the running game was also messy throughout this year (averaging 2.9 yards per carry), which leads back to the offensive line.

Offensive line coach Jim Jackson was fired this season, showing where Bell and the coach evaluators feel the struggle resided. Jackson was the only coach fired throughout the season.

Dzuro finishes his season throwing 15 of 36 for 215 yards and two interceptions and running 12 times for four yards. Koch finished his first year in the system with 24 completions on 40 attempts for 166 yards and one touchdown and interception apiece, while running for 62 yards on 21 carries.

“We’re going to have a great offseason, eight weeks of lifting, 15 spring practices all into the summer,” Bell said. “We’ll compete every single day and find out who the guy is.”

Every college football player has an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19, meaning that Koch will remain a true freshman and Dzuro will remain a redshirt freshman, giving them an extra within Bell’s system to try and improve on an understandably difficult, yet lackluster 2020.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do this offseason,” Bell said.

 

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1