UMass football struggles continue in 35-10 loss to Maine

This marks the 2nd straight week the Minutemen have lost to an FCS team

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer / Daily Collegian

By James DiLuca, Collegian Staff

In its first game under interim coach Alex Miller, the Massachusetts football team had appeared to find its footing when it jumped out to an early 10-0 lead against Maine. However, after the five minute and 35 second mark in the first quarter, the UMass offense became very stagnant and did not score for the remainder of the game.

The Minutemen had more opportunities to put points on the board throughout the game, but they could not capitalize. Before halftime UMass was set up with a great chance to walk away with a field goal as it had the ball on its own 45-yard line. The offense made its way down to Maine’s 15-yard line and seemed to be in prime position to score. After two Brady Olson incompletions the UMass offense was faced with a third-and-10.

The Minutemen ran a play action pass that was initially designed to get Olson rolling out to his right, but the Maine defense blew up the play. Olson was forced to run backwards to escape the pressure and throw it away. Unfortunately for Olson, the throw away was deemed intentional grounding. With 13 seconds left in the half UMass was pushed back 20 yards to the Maine 35-yard line. Due to the penalty, 10 seconds ran off the clock and with the team out of timeouts there was no way to stop the clock as the remaining three seconds ticked away. Maine took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

UMass’ kicker Cameron Carson also missed a 36-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that would have made it a one score game.

The UMass offense took a very conservative approach to start out the game by handing the ball off to Ellis Merriweather and mixing in bubble screens. Olson got the start over an injured Tyler Lytle who was a game time decision for Saturday’s tilt against Maine. Lytle’s injury that held him out of the game was not disclosed.

“We leaned on [Merriweather] early, and obviously we have been doing that lately,” Miller said. “We wanted to make it easy for [Brady Olson] the kid [has] been in a tough situation all year and he’s been great at handling it, but as many times as we can put him in good situations, we want to do that.

Olson started out the game strong completing his first five passes, but as he looked to throw the ball downfield, he began to struggle. The freshman quarterback seemed to overthrow every one of his deep balls. This was highlighted late in the first quarter as he overthrew a wide open Onuma Dieke, who attempted to make a diving catch, but came up just short. Olson finished the game 14-for-30 for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Olson’s lone touchdown came in the first quarter off an unorthodox play call that had multiple linemen squared up out wide. Olson found Josiah Johnson off a play action fake, for an 8-yard touchdown.

Maine’s offense got off to a slow start, but a 58-yard pass from Joe Fagnano to Montigo Moss appeared to jump start the Maine offense. This setup a Freddie Brock 18-yard touchdown run, that saw the back make a quick jump cut to elude the UMass defense, which allowed him to walk into the endzone untouched.

Brock had 13 carries, 74 yards and a touchdown on the game. Elijah Barnwell added 84 yards on ground, to go along with two touchdowns.

Devin Young led both teams in receiving with eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Merriweather had a career day running the football rushing for 177 yards on 27 attempts for UMass. His performance today made him the first UMass running back in the school’s FBS era to have five 100-yard games in a season. Merriweather now has 860 rushing yards on the season.

With the firing of Walt Bell and Tommy Restivo, UMass decided to shift to a play calling by committee approach. Linebackers coach Danny Carrell and defensive line coach Jim Reid were assigned to oversee the defense, while quarterbacks coach Fred Walker and tight ends coach Kyle Segler were in charge of the offense.

“We’ll reassess that tomorrow,” Miller said of the play calling situation. “That’s the beauty about when you get thrown into a fire like this, you see what burns and you see what doesn’t.”

UMass has two games left this season and will be on the road next week to take on Army. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on Saturday.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected].