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

UMass football comes up inches short against Arkansas State

Minutemen lose 35-33 after failed 2-point conversion late
Chris Tucci/UMass Athletics

Football is a game of inches, and the Massachusetts football team learned that the hard way on Saturday night.

UMass (1-9) drove down the field and scored a touchdown with less than a minute to play that brought it within two points of Arkansas State. The Minutemen drew up a play on the 2-point conversion attempt that got Isaac Ross open, and Garrett Dzuro got the ball to him, but the wide receiver was stuffed at the goal line and couldn’t break the plane to tie the game up.

Despite the loss, being in a position to tie the game in that fashion was an encouraging sign for UMass coach Don Brown.

“It just seemed like it clicked,” Brown said after the game. “The guys kept competing and stayed together, and it’s refreshing to know that we’re doing that when things haven’t gone our way for most of the year.”

On that final drive, Dzuro led the offense 81 yards down the field in less than four minutes, and on a third down from just outside the red zone, he delivered a strike over the middle to Ross for the touchdown. Both Dzuro and Olson threw touchdown passes on Saturday.

The UMass offense had a quiet first half but turned up its intensity in the final 30 minutes. The momentum shifted once Ellis Merriweather found his first touchdown of the day, bringing the Minutemen within eight points of Arkansas State. Immediately following the score, UMass’ defense got the ball right back with an interception on a deep throw up the seam. Just like that, Olson was back on the field, and he drove down the field again before tossing a well-placed pass to George Johnson III for a touchdown.

“I thought we had a good plan, I thought there was a good mix of run and pass,” Brown said. “When you have a team that you’re working hard to develop, It’s nice to see certain guys, when they get their opportunity, to make the most of it and that’s one of the reasons you can see the benefits of it [offensively].”

Those scores gave the Minutemen all the momentum in the game, but that was short lived. The Red Wolves (3-7) responded with a 75-yard rushing touchdown to retake control of the game.

Still, UMass fought hard and remained close throughout much of the day. Merriweather was a big reason for that, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

“We’ve been waiting for this kind of an output, and we got it out of him [Saturday] so we were pleased for him, pleased for our offense, and obviously it’s exciting to see him get going,” Brown said. “Hopefully that kind of ignites him for the last couple weeks.”

The Minutemen defense had a strong performance on Saturday, holding the Red Wolves to under 150 yards on the ground and under 15 through the air as well. UMass didn’t allow Arkansas State to convert a single third down, either, allowing the offense to get back on the field consistently.

Tyler Rudolph was a key part of that Minutemen defense. He had the game-changing interception in the third quarter and the safety was flying all over the field to make plays outside of that moment as well.

“He’s been a competitor all year, competes his tail off,” Brown said of Rudolph. “He has a lot of responsibility back there, it’s nice to see him get an interception, I’m just really happy with his effort and his energy.”

Statistically, UMass dominated the Red Wolves in most areas of the game. The Minutemen had 307 passing yards – over double Arkansas State’s total – and 168 rushing yards as well. The Minutemen also had over double the total number of first downs and over double the time of possession on offense.

Saturday was one of UMass’ best games of the season, and even in the loss, it took a big step forward as a unit. The Minutemen have two games left in the season to continue that improvement, and will hit the road again on Saturday, Nov. 19 to take on Texas A&M.

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

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    ElliottNov 13, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    I don’t know what we’ll do without Merriweather next year. This season has been so bad, it’s hard to imagine regressing even more…Praying Don Brown’s local roots can pull in some decent recruits to fill the gaps