McCarthy: How UMass football can ‘win’ the last three weeks of the season

Minutemen need to end 2022 season on a high note

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Sophia-Zoe Schreyer

Sophie-Zoe Schreyer/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Colin McCarthy, Assistant Sports Editor

There’s been good, there’s been bad and there’s been a lot of ugly when it comes to the Massachusetts football team in 2022. Year one of the Don Brown 2.0 era isn’t going exactly the way UMass (1-8) hoped, but through all the disappointment, there is still hope.

Brown’s first season was never going to go great. It’s his first season back, he doesn’t have a recruiting class under his belt yet and he’s fielding a young team with very few seniors. Hockey coach Greg Carvel and women’s basketball coach Tory Verdi both had rocky first years at University of Massachusetts, and since have built two of the most successful programs on campus.

I think Brown is the right person to give the Minutemen life, but improvements need to be made in the final three weeks of the season to show progress heading into next year.

Let Brady Olson take the reigns

This could go for three different quarterbacks, honestly, but since Olson started the last two and looks to be the hot hand, just let him play the last three games of the season.

There is no consistency in the UMass offense. For a while, it looked like Gino Campiotti was going to be leading the Minutemen, but he’s disappeared over the last month or so. Garrett Dzuro looked promising, but it seems like he was just a flash in the pan.

Overall, the quarterback situation has been a mess; four different quarterbacks have gotten playing time and none of them have gotten into a rhythm.

Olson had some rocky throws over his last two starts, but he’s also shown a lot of potential and it’s clear he’s still the best passer UMass has. Against University of Connecticut, he threw for over 250 yards and was 19-for-34 passing.

That was far and away the Minutemen’s best performance through the air, and if Olson can continue that success, it’ll be a huge positive sign in an offense that hasn’t had success passing the ball all season.

Open up the playbook offensively

This happened a bit more in Friday’s game against the Huskies, but that needs to continue through the final three games. The current formula of running the ball all day, every day isn’t working.

Steve Casula has received some public scrutiny for his lack of creativity in play calling, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to put that blame on him. I think the other side to this issue, though, is a lack of trust in players.

This problem has been glaring at the quarterback position. That started on the Minutemen’s very first drive of the season, when they started Olson before putting Campiotti into the game two plays later. The lack of trust seems to go beyond just who’s taking snaps, though.

Greg Desrosiers Jr. had 110 rushing yards against Liberty, in the three games following that performance, he was given a total of five carries. It’s ridiculous to watch somebody have a great game and not try to capitalize on that momentum.

Kay’Ron Adams gets inconsistent touches despite bringing a lot of explosiveness to the backfield. Many of the receivers have been under-utilized in the offense, but when they are given chances, they thrive. George Johnson III and Cameron Sullivan-Brown are prime examples of that.

The Minutemen have a lot more offensive weapons than they’ve shown so far this season. Use the last three games to open up the playbook and give these players the opportunity to shine in a more free-flowing offense. What do they have to lose? Might as well start throwing different stuff out there and seeing what works.

Play a full 60-minute game

To this point, I can’t confidently say that UMass has played a full 60-minute game of football this season. Typically, the defense has a very strong first half, but the offense underperforms and forces the defense to stay on the field more, which leads to an eventual second half implosion.

If the Minutemen can put together even one complete game in their final three, that will be a drastic improvement. One game where the offense does enough to keep the defense rested and the defense in turn carries its first half success into the second half. I’m not expecting that to happen against Texas A&M, but Army and Arkansas State are both games where this would be a reasonable expectation.

Any of these changes would allow UMass to end its season on somewhat of a high note. The first chance to make those improvements is on Saturday, at 3 p.m. against Arkansas State.

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.