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 prepares for Auburn coming off Week 0 win

Minutemen hit the road for second week in a row
Shilpa Sweth
Daily Collegian (2022)

The Massachusetts football team takes on Auburn University following its 41-30 victory over New Mexico State. Though retaking the road and heading to Auburn, the Minutemen (1-0) are excited to continue playing a complimentary game, according to head coach Don Brown.

“This group just gets better every day, whether it’s how they handle practice, going to meetings, weight room [sessions], just being prepared… I don’t expect any different [for Auburn],” Brown said on Monday afternoon. “We just stay focused, take each minute as it comes, and continue to play hard.”

With Taisun Phommachanh landing the starting quarterback role, the redshirt junior appeared comfortable in a variety of plays and found himself adding 96 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to his resume. The quarterback also threw a 68-yard dime to Christian Wells against New Mexico State.

“I thought [Phommachanh] did a great job … Obviously, he’s very athletic, but he’s [also] a smart football player,” Brown said. “We’re certainly not going to run plays that he’s uncomfortable with or ill-prepared for … We’re just very comfortable with the way he goes about his business, and he is all business. When you’ve got a guy that’s dedicated … and really focused on the task at hand, good things happen.”

Defensively, UMass rewrote the Aggies’ offensive story in favor of the maroon and white. Viper Michael Oppong and defensive back Isaiah Rutherford came up with an interception each. Rutherford took his snag all the way to the endzone for the Minutemen.

“The number one thing we’re doing better is we’re gaining maturity on how to go about doing our business,” Brown said. “If you asked me that two weeks ago, I would still [think that] we had a huge hill to climb.”

With kickoff approaching, UMass continues to take strides in preparation. This includes handling another week of travel and getting ready to hit the field running. Brown noted that the Minutemen are excited for their second matchup of the season.

The Tigers have yet to take the field this season. Last season Auburn ended with a 5-7 record, averaging 24.8 points per game and 32 points off turnovers. On the opposing end, the Tigers let up 29.5 points on average and 58 points on turnovers. Mid-season the team adjusted to an interim coach, Cadillac Williams and faced several offensive struggles alongside defensive meltdowns.

Heading into the 2023 season, similar to UMass, Auburn introduced a handful of transfers and a new offensive lineup to restructure the program. The Tigers are led by head coach Hugh Freeze.

Freeze was previously the head coach of Liberty University’s football team. During his time as head coach in Lynchburg, the Flames took part in four bowl games. Liberty closed its time with Freeze on an 8-4 record and won 42-24 over the Minutemen last season.

“Coach Freeze is a good [football] coach, does a good job offensively and obviously he’s making the adjustment to a new system,” Brown said. “[I’m] sure he’ll have [Auburn] ready to go, and we [just have] to be ready for the challenge and go 100 miles an hour.”

Despite UMass not being favored by the public for Saturday, Brown said that those numbers and opinions do not affect the team. Rather, he focuses on combining mental preparation, player execution and game-plan execution.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium field in Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 2. The matchup can be watched on ESPN.

“[Southeastern Conference] opponent. If you want to be the best, you [have] to beat the best,” Brown said. “That’s the goal.”

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.

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