UMass takes on Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday

Minutemen hope to end September at 2-2

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Judah Katz, Collegian Staff

Fresh off its first home win of the season, the Massachusetts football team heads right back on the road to take on the Temple Owls on Saturday. UMass (1-2) is riding momentum after a defensive clinic put on by head coach Don Brown against Stony Brook.

Temple (1-2) finds itself scraping the bottom of the American Athletic Conference, struggling to stay afloat amongst teams like Tulane and Cincinnati. Both these 1-2 teams are itching to get back to an even record.

“No fooling around, last week’s over, it’s time to get back to work and take care of business,” Brown said on Tuesday.

For the Minutemen, success starts with their defense. It’s no secret that they have struggled this season to limit offensive production from their opponents. They gave up 42 points to Tulane and 55 points to Toledo. Their offense isn’t potent enough to engage in LSU-style shootouts, so they must keep the score close to allow their offense to make plays down the stretch.

Against Stony Brook, the UMass secondary locked up the Seawolves’ receiving core, and made it impossible for them to move the ball into the red zone. This allowed their offense to push the ball down the field with momentum.

UMass has struggled all season to find consistent performances from its quarterback group. Gino Campiotti, who started last week’s game against Stony Brook, looks to have an impact performance against Temple.

Because UMass relies so heavily on its misdirect run game, he has to provide supplemental yardage in the air and with his legs. Once the quarterback strings together a few strong throws downfield, running backs like Ellis Merriweather and Greg Desrosiers Jr. can find bigger holes up the middle.

The running game for UMass has remained steady throughout the year, due to their depth at the position.

“They all kind of complement each other,” coach Brown said. “You can utilize different portions of the run game with different guys.”

For the Owls, success is dependent on their starting quarterback, E.J. Warner. Through two games this season, Warner has a passer rating of 144.1, a completion percentage of 64.7, and three touchdowns. They feature different packages surrounding his arm and rely on their pass game on offense. So far, they have averaged 181 yards per game through the air, and just over 86 yards per game on the ground.

“[Warner is] very accurate and has the ability to go from read one to read two,” Brown said. “Those are big things when your quarterback can actually read and do things.”

Saturday’s matchup will become a battle of the secondary. In its first win of the season, UMass covered Stony Brook’s receivers well, limiting them to just two third down conversions. If the Minutemen limit the amount of impact Warner has on offense, they can control the tempo of the game with their run game, something that they found success with in week three.

UMass has struggled all year from poor field position because of its special teams’ woes. Against Stony Brook, it found itself relinquishing large amounts of field position based on poor punting on fourth down. If not for an opportune interception in the red zone by cornerback Jordan Mahoney, the Seawolves would have had multiple opportunities to score within five plays, something that the Minutemen cannot afford to repeat against Temple.

Temple and UMass don’t have a long history of games played against each other, having only met twice in the past. Their last meeting was in 2017, when the Owls prevailed over the Minutemen 29-21. They met previously in 2015, the Owls again squeezing out a 25-23 victory.

UMass travels to Philadelphia to face Temple on Saturday, September 24 on ESPN+. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

Judah Katz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @judah_katz.