Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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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

Minutemen come up short in overtime battle against University of New Mexico

UMass suffers fourth consecutive loss
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2023)

Despite Ahmad Haston’s 65-yard pass to Anthony Simpson to tie the game with seconds ticking down on the fourth quarter clock, the Massachusetts football team could not halt the University of New Mexico from taking the game in overtime. The Minutemen (1-4) fell 34-31 to the Lobos (2-2) on Saturday afternoon.

Simpson’s 65-yard advance into the endzone was followed by UMass’ two-point conversion attempt. With Haston scanning the back of the endzone, the true freshman found Gino Campiotti. The tight end flung out, extending both of his arms to secure the tied score, 28-28, with 45 seconds left of the game.

Haston could not find traction during overtime and totaled only nine yards. On a fourth-and-one decision, UMass brought out Cameron Carson and solidified its first lead of the afternoon adding three more points to the scoreboard.

“You don’t want to come away empty-handed,” head coach Don Brown said regarding the decision to kick the field goal rather than attempt to convert on fourth-and-one. “Each situation’s a little bit different.”

Plagued by penalties, the Lobos jumped on the opportunity provided to them, rushing Jacory Croskey-Merritt into the endzone, ending the game. The series of flags started with a pass interference call on Juan Lua at the three-yard line. This pushed the New Mexico offense half the distance from the goal, which continued to shorten on the following delay of game and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

However, it was the imbalance of UMass’ offense and defense that ultimately prevented a  Minutemen win on Saturday.

The first half of the game highlighted the cracks in the defense. On the first drive that afternoon, Tyler Rudolph struggled to pick himself up after New Mexico’s rushing attempt on third-and-one. The safety was helped off the field and was not seen for the remainder of the contest. From there until the start of the second half, UMass’ defense allowed the Lobos to score on their following four drives.

New Mexico’s first score started with a 55-yard pass up the middle from Dylan Hopkins to Caleb Medford. After locking in the football at the 35-yard line, Medford put up a few extra yards for good measure and placed the Lobos at the 24-yard line. Nahji Logan and Marcus Bradley attempted to hold New Mexico back, but Medford advanced down the field and completed Hopkins’ touchdown pass five plays later. This first score of the afternoon gave New Mexico the lead up until UMass’ overtime field goal.

Looking to bounce back defensively after the half, the Minutemen came up with a second half shutout.

“[We] got a little bit more aggressive … and it really helped us. I thought we tackled much better in the second half than we did in the first,” Brown said. “That’s our third third quarter shutout in five games, which is a goal [of ours].”

New Mexico’s first drive of the third quarter was killed by defensive breakups in the passing game. After Billy Wooden forced a fumble on first-and-10 causing Hopkins to frantically recover the football, the redshirt senior quarterback’s two attempts to avoid fourth-and-19 were shot dead. Hopkins scanned the field for Jeremiah Hixon on both attempts, but the UMass defense got in the way. Jerrod Cameron and Te’Rai Powell, respectively, broke up the two passing attempts.

In the fourth quarter with New Mexico looking to convert on third-and-13, Lua broke up the deep left pass intended for Deuce Jones. The senior nearly intercepted the pass, but it was ruled incomplete as Lua scooped up the ball from the ground.

Though Hopkins and Medford, the latter of which ended the game with 82 receiving yards, helped push the Lobos to 28 points in the first half,, the UMass offense powered by Simpson and Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams kept the Minutemen alive. Aside from his game-tying touchdown, Simpson put up 104 receiving yards.

“[Simpson’s] the guy you’re looking for,” Brown said.

In the run game, UMass depended on Lynch-Adams. The running back clocked in 97 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own. However, the redshirt junior struggled to find breakout plays and escape the defensive line. Lynch-Adams only found an opening to break through three times on Saturday, the first tracking 21 yards and the others allowing him to put up 15 yards.

The Minutemen also had to adjust to a late quarterback switch. After taking hard hits in the second half, Carlos Davis took a spot on the sideline as Haston jumped into the quarterback slot to close out the game. Davis ended his night 11-20 totaling 196 yards while Haston took up the challenge of reviving UMass and closed 5-5 for 102 yards.

“We were forced into a situation that really … fit [Haston Saturday],,” Brown said. “He just kept competing.”

As for Davis, Brown said that the second-string quarterback successfully closed his time on the field without an interception.

“When [Davis is] error free, that gives us a chance to stay in the game. It’s a beautiful thing and that’s what he was able to do. That’s a big improvement from a week ago,” Brown said.

The Minutemen look ahead to another Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Sept. 30. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

“My guys, they’re giving me all that they’ve got,” Brown said. “We just [have] to keep grinding away.”

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected]

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