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

Depin: Comparing and contrasting the offenses of 2022 and Week 0 of 2023

Offense leads Minutemen past New Mexico State
Dylan Nguyen
Daily Collegian (2022)

On Sept. 3, 2022, as the clock bled zero at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Massachusetts football team started that year’s conquest with a 42-10 loss against Tulane. This game started a season that saw just one win for the Minutemen (1-0) against FCS opponent Stony Brook, finishing the season 1-11.

On Aug. 21, head coach Don Brown said “We feel good about where we are offensively. I feel like I’m a cheerleader telling everyone how much [our offense has] improved but we have to prove it.”

On Aug. 26, against last year’s Quick Lane Bowl winners New Mexico State on primetime television, UMass proved it.

The Minutemen hung 41 points on the Aggies (0-1) who mustered 30 in return, with a garbage time touchdown being the only thing that kept this from being a three-score game. The phrase “putting your best foot forward” applies to many facets of life, and UMass certainly put its best foot forward on Saturday night.

But what was different on Saturday than all of last season? What remained the same? Here are four differences and one commonality between the two offenses.

Only one quarterback was used

In a stark contrast from a season ago that saw a revolving door of three signal callers (Gino Campiotti, Brady Olson and Garrett Dzuro), just one quarterback was used for the duration of Saturday’s game, Taisun Phommachanh. With stability at the most important position in the offense and the utility that Phommachanh brings as both a passer and runner,  UMass can only benefit from having one defined starting QB.

Increased efficiency 

Building off of the first point, the stability of having one person man the offense led to increased efficiency in all aspects. Phommachanh had 10 completions, but those 10 completions went for 192 yards, much improved over the 2022 passing game. These big chunk gains that the Minutemen continually found themselves getting led to only 54 offensive snaps for the game. Comparatively, UMass had 69 offensive snaps in last seasons opener and had 217 yards total, just 25 more than Phommachanh had himself.

More confidence in the pass game

As a former four-star recruit, Clemson and Georgia Tech transfer, much was expected of Phommachanh in the first game of this new chapter. By the second drive, offensive coordinator Steve Casula knew that he could trust his new signal caller. As mentioned previous, Phommachanh hit just below 200 yards when last season the Minutemen didn’t hit 100 yards in the air as a team until Oct. 15 against Buffalo.

This confidence in Phommachanh to uncork for deep throws or pass in general unlocks the rest of the offense. With the threat of a deep ball always on the minds of the defense, lanes open up for rushers, seen on Saturday with Phommachanh averaging 5.6 yards per carry while second leading rusher Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.

More aggressive play calling

It seemed as though several times last season that the McGuirk faithful were booing decisions made by Brown and Co. in regards to the more often than not conservative play calling when it came to keeping the offense on the field for fourth down. One can think back to last season against Connecticut where Brown opted to kick a 27-yard field goal that was ultimately missed on fourth and one instead of being aggressive in what was at the time a two-score game.

On Saturday, however, up only three and the proposition of a long field goal looming, on fourth and seven the offense remained on the field and Phommachanh scrambled his way to a 26 yard gain. Lynch Adams eventually finished off the drive with a 10 yard rush for the touchdown. Playing aggressive won’t always work in UMass’ favor, but aggressiveness adds a new wrinkle to the Minutemen offense.

This is still a run-first offense

Despite the addition of Phommachanh, several transfers that were added to the receiving corps and notable players switching positions (i.e. Campiotti), this is still, by all means a run-first offense. There were just 17 pass attempts from Phommachanh and 37 rush attempts from the Minutemen as a whole. Keeping with the style that UMass had last season, Phommachanh had 17 of these rush attempts, finishing as the game’s leading rusher with 96 yards on the ground including a rushing touchdown. Lynch-Adams had 15 rush attempts, good for 80 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

In fact, all offensive touchdowns were rushing touchdowns with Anthony Simpson providing the first touchdown of 2023 for the Minutemen. UMass can add all of these quarterbacks and receivers, but at the end of the day, its offense is built on the back of its ground game.

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

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *