UMass football loses 27-10 to Connecticut

Brady Olson throws for 266 yards

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Sophie-Zoe Schreyer / Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts football team started its game against Connecticut with its strongest offensive performance of the season, but ultimately fell by a final score of 27-10. The result differs from the match up from last year, when the Minutemen defeated the Huskies by a score of 27-13, taking their first and only win of the 2021 season.

The story of the game for UMass (1-8) was the stark contrast between the amount of passing yardage in Friday’s game compared to every other game this season. Brady Olson started his second game in a row, and passed the ball 34 times, a season high. Olson became the first Minutemen quarterback to throw for over 200 yards since Tyler Lytle did against Rhode Island on November 6, 2021 (363 days ago.)

This season, Olson is the first quarterback to throw for over 100 yards, with the next highest being Garrett Dzuro with 99 passing yards against Buffalo. This rapid improvement in air yardage could be attributed to both Olson making tough passes, but also increased variety with the types of plays that were being called. Olson finished with 266 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception.

“Olson did some good things for us tonight, I think he can take this particular game and build on it, and that’s really what we’re looking for,” head coach Don Brown said. “I thought [Olson] played the game, he just played the game. He just went out, took what they gave him, and that’s half the battle. The whole plan was to play the game 100 miles per hour, then look up at the end and see where we’re at.”

Olson’s favorite target against UConn (5-5) was wide receiver Cameron Sullivan-Brown, who hauled in five catches for 124 yards. Sullivan-Brown had two big catches; one that came off a flea flicker that he caught in triple coverage for 45 yards, and another 53 yard reception that he took to the house for a touchdown. This was UMass’ second passing touchdown of the year, the other of which was also caught by Sullivan-Brown. His 124 receiving yards are a career high at the collegiate level.

“It’s a big time game, for UMass, for my team, and I’m just glad I could come up big,” Sullivan-Brown said. “It’s a career high, with the rivalry game, everyone’s got a little extra juice. I’m just happy I could spark the drive. I enjoy making plays out there for my team to spark the drive.”

Late in the third quarter, with the Minutemen down 20-10, they opted to kick a 27 yard chip-shot field goal on fourth and one to make it a one score game. The kick was wide left, and UMass walked away empty handed on what would be its last quality shot to put points on the board.

“Those are the types of things, when you’re not winning, that bring you down. I don’t regret kicking the field goal because it was a two-score game,” Brown said. “We could have got it back to a one score game. The bottom line is, it’s [20-13 if we make], you gotta make those kinds of decisions. It wasn’t four minutes left in the game, there was over 10 minutes left in that game.”

The game was closer than the score showed, as on Connecticut’s second drive of the game, running back Devontae Houston broke free on an outside run for a 75 yard touchdown. The next longest run the Minutemen allowed was a 26 yard rush. Taking out the 75 yard anomaly, UMass would have allowed 210 total rushing yards.

“Obviously, defensively, there’s some things there, we had the great stop in the beginning of the game,” Brown said. “The thing that completely changes the way you look at the rush yards was the explosive [play]. Because now you put the explosive play in with the rest of it. [Friday], we had no explosives in the pass game. You take that out of there, it’s a big difference.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, UMass left much to be desired from its run game. The leading rusher was Ellis Merriweather with 33 yards, while Greg Desrosiers Jr and Kay’Ron Adams combined for 35 rushing yards. Olson added 11 yards of his own on the ground.

Penalties again hampered the potential of the Minutemen, especially on the defensive side of the football. Six penalties for 70 yards (including a back-breaking pass interference call on what would have been a third down stop) sucked the life out of a defense which had kept the Huskies in check.

“Obviously, the thing that comes up is that we had the pass interference, and the defensive hold,” Brown said. “It aided [Connecticut’s] last scoring drive, that’s just a killer.”

Despite the loss, Brown feels good about where UMass is at heading into the final stretch of the season.

“There’s no moral victories, but at the same time I thought we took some steps as a football team [Friday night] that we can utilize and move forward,” Brown said. “I thought we played hard the whole night, we held [Connecticut] to 330 yards of offense, we had 351, but [Connecticut] finished drives.”

The Minutemen are next in action on Saturday, Nov. 12, taking on Arkansas State from Centennial Bank Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

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