UMass returns home for matchup against Toledo

The Minutemen are seeking their first win of the season

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Parker Peters / Daily Collegian

By Dylan Corey, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts football team continues the hunt for its first win in over two calendar years this Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium against Toledo at 12 p.m.

UMass (0-4) is coming off its worst loss of the season last week, falling 53-3 to No. 17 Coastal Carolina. The Rockets (2-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) should allow a closer contest for the Minutemen, but a formidable Toledo offense led by a pair of quarterbacks will be a challenge for UMass.

“Offensively they’ve got some really good edge players,” head coach Walt Bell said. “Really good skill spots … solid at tight end, they’re good up front.”

UMass’ defense gives up an average of 47.75 points per game, good for dead last in the country. There is young talent and some solid individual players, but they have only logged two sacks this season. The Minutemen have been unable to hold any opposing offense to under 200 passing yards.

“I think we’ve proven up to this point that the way for us to rush the passer is we’re going to have to pressure more,” Bell said. “But from a pash rush standpoint, some of that is recruiting as well. We’ve got to continue to develop our roster…the name of the game is affecting the quarterback and obviously, we’re not doing a great job of that right now.”

Avien Peah, the lone graduate student on UMass’ defensive depth chart, has recorded 25 tackles over the first four games. The Rockets average 148 yards per game on the ground, while Peah’s defensive line is partially responsible for allowing upwards of 240 rushing yards per game — the fourth most in FBS.

“If you don’t stop the run you’re not really going to get a lot of opportunities to put pressure on the quarterback,” Peah said. “I think our biggest thing is stopping the run to get them in third down and long or second and long, whatever the case may be.”

The Minutemen’s offense is quarterbacked by true freshman Brady Olson, filling in for the injured Tyler Lytle. UMass has had issues on that end of the field as well, ranking 123 out of 130 teams in scoring offense.

Despite the scoring struggles, Olson has begun to turn heads and make a case for the permanent role if Bell wants to lean into what is potentially the future. Olson has thrown five touchdowns this year, and averages 251 yards per game. Bell has started calling more advanced plays as Olson continues to gain experience. He caught a pass for 25 yards against Eastern Michigan, and last week missed a wide-open Taylor Edwards on a double reverse that merged into a flea flicker.

“I don’t necessarily look at them as gadget plays,” Bell said. “They’re football plays and we’ve got to execute them. We come out and practice them, we put them in on Tuesday with everything else in terms of base offense and we’ve got to execute.”

Execution continues to be the name of the game for Bell’s inexperienced roster as they begin recovering from a plethora of injuries suffered early in the year. The 12 p.m. kickoff is the earliest yet, with the game available to watch on NESN or listen to on WEEI 105.5 FM.

Dylan Corey can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TheDylanCorey.