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

Struggling Massachusetts offense unable to overcome early deficit against Tulane

Minutemen record 200 yards on the ground compared to 17 in the air
Chris Tucci/ UMass Athletics

The Massachusetts football team lost to Tulane on Saturday evening by a score of 42 to 10. The Minutemen (0-1) ran a ground and pound style offense, with 58 of their 69 offensive snaps resulting in a run play. The Green Wave (1-0) were able to quell the rest of the Massachusetts offense, ultimately holding onto their first half lead.

Redshirt sophomore Tim Baldwin Jr. made a big splash in his first game as a Minuteman, rushing for 65 yards, while Ellis Merriweather had 36 rushing yards of his own. The running backs group as a whole rushed for 141 yards, while Massachusetts recorded 17 yards in the air.

The over-reliance on the run game made the Minutemen very predictable, as a field goal at the end of the second quarter was the last time they scored. Tulane adapted in the second half and played to stuff the run, which was seen in Massachusetts second half run yardage, gaining 41 yards on the ground in the second half compared to 159 yards in the first.

“[The run game] was our plan,” head coach Don Brown said. “We thought we would run the football, try to control the clock as best we can, that was our goal going in, and turn it into a short game, and try to minimize [Tulane’s] series.”

Redshirt junior Gino Campiotti and sophomore Brady Olson split time at quarterback, with Campiotti finding more success in his stints as the play-caller, rushing for 58 yards as well as a touchdown. Both struggled in the air, combining for three interceptions.

The Massachusetts defense played better than the score shows, as struggles on special teams and turnovers on offense often gave the Green Wave superb field position, while the Minutemen were on the other end of the spectrum, finding themselves with insurmountable field position more often than not.

The Massachusetts defense held Tulane to three of eight on third down conversions, and one of four on fourth down conversions. The Minutemen’s fourth down stand in the first quarter gave them one of the few good field positions’ that they would have all day, which directly led to Campiotti’s rushing touchdown.

“At times, we showed we could [stop Tulane],” Brown said. “But not enough on [Saturday], in any of the three phases. There’s enough blame to go around for everybody.”

Special teams were laboring on both sides of the ball, as low, short punts gave the defense an impossible task, and short punt and kick returns made the methodic, run heavy Minuteman offense ineffective as they needed to gain more ground than that style of offense allows teams to gain.

“The reality is our punting game wasn’t good enough, it gave us bad field position on three to four occasions,” Brown said. “I mean it’s what I’ve been talking about, every time you turned around, [Tulane] was returning the ball to plus territory, or they were around midfield. In a couple cases they were on our plus 35, I mean those are tough scenarios. A great defensive football team will dig its way out of it and salvage a couple of stops out of that. [UMass wasn’t] able to do that on any basis at all.”

Penalties on both sides of the ball cost Massachusetts valuable field position on a day when good field position was hard to come by. The Minutemen committed seven penalties, which cost them a total of 77 yards. The Green Wave weren’t much better, committing six penalties that cost them 50 yards.

“[UMass] had a fourth down stop, I think it was two fourth down stops, and one we had an extra guy on the field, and the other I think was a roughing,” Brown said. “Doesn’t help us, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s very disappointing. The only thing I can tell you is that you have got to get those things to leave our game. It would be nice to just go play the game and not have to overcome the negative things that happen to us on a day-to-day basis.”

Massachusetts looks to bounce back in its next game against Toledo at Glass Bowl Stadium, on Saturday, September 10. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.

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