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

Freshman quarterback sees first playing time in UMass loss

Touted recruit Ahmad Haston fills in for injured starter
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2023)

The pocket held up for him. With under a minute to play, the quarterback stepped up and threw what’s best described as a prayer to Anthony Simpson, the Massachusetts football team’s most reliable receiving threat on the day.

The pass probably should have been intercepted. While taking a deep shot was a valiant effort, the ball was slightly underthrown and looked to land right in the arms of New Mexico corner Christian Ellis.

But an interception is not what happened. Instead, Ellis fell into his teammate, safety Noa Pola-Gates, and the ball settled right into the hands of Simpson, who outran Pola-Gates for a 65-yard touchdown.

One play later, Gino Campiotti ran a post route and was found in the corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 28 with 45 seconds to play.

These were two of the most crucial plays of the game, and they were executed by Ahmad Haston, UMass’ (1-4) true freshman quarterback who saw his first playing time Saturday in place of an injured Carlos Davis. While the Minutemen suffered their fourth straight loss at the hands of the Lobos (2-2), a 34-31 overtime defeat, Haston gave UMass fans a glimpse as to what its future at the quarterback position could look like.

“This young man is special,” head coach Don Brown said. “Forget the football. We were recruiting him no matter what. But he’s an outstanding football player with a tremendous future ahead of him … he was able to create some magic [Saturday] and he just kept competing.”

Haston came into the game early in the fourth quarter, when Davis got hit hard by New Mexico linebacker Syaire Riley while delivering a completion. It took a while for the Western Carolina transfer to get to his feet, and by the time he got up, it became clear that he needed at least a few plays off.

With that injury, the freshman came in, a player who Minutemen fans have been waiting to see in the maroon and white since his commitment to the program 16 months earlier. At Palm Beach Central in Florida, Haston threw for over 2,000 yards and 38 touchdowns during his senior year, racking up numerous accolades in the Sunshine State.

The three-star prospect had some offers from bigger programs, such as Virginia and Marshall, but spurned those and opted to head to Amherst. With a grade of 82, 247Sports ranked him as one of the 25 best high school football recruits to choose UMass since 2000.

Haston’s first drive was a shaky one, with the staff moving to a run-heavy offense to ease him into the game. After a few handoffs, the quarterback’s second carry was nearly disastrous, as after a seven-yard gain, the ball was knocked out of his hands into the air.  That fumble’s landing spot was junior center Josh Atwood, who took the ball and even advanced it a couple extra yards.

While there were a couple more mistakes, including a 12-yard sack where he had multiple opportunities to throw the ball away, Haston grew more comfortable leading the offense as time went on. After the Simpson touchdown especially, the freshman showed quicker decision making over UMass’ lone overtime drive, although the possession ultimately ended in a field goal.

When it was all said and done, Haston came into a game where the Minutemen were down multiple possessions and, with the help of a stellar second-half UMass defense, took the game to overtime.

In his first collegiate action, Ahmad Haston’s finished five-of-five for 102 yards and a passing touchdown, along with ten carries for 25 rushing yards.

It’s unsure how much more playing time Haston will see this season. Opening-day starter Taisun Phommachanh is expected to return from his injury soon, and Davis may have just picked up a mild knock.

Regardless though, Haston performed admirably for a freshman in a high-pressure situation against the Lobos, giving Minutemen fans optimism that after years of searching, their quarterback situation might be secured long-term.

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @DeanWende1.

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    Jim WendelSep 24, 2023 at 8:00 am

    Great job.