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 begins a three-game homestand in Week Four against New Mexico

Minutemen look to get back on track with their first normal home game of 2023
Kayla Wong

After experiencing one of the most interesting home openers ever and going back on the road the following week, the Massachusetts football team will finally be home for what will — in theory — be the first normal game of 2023, at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

The Minutemen (1-3) will host the New Mexico Lobos following their 19-17 loss against Eastern Michigan. After three road games in the first four weeks, UMass gets to stay home and attempt to move in the right direction.

“It’s great to be home,” head coach Don Brown said. “I feel like the players got robbed in the [original home opener], there was nobody there. But obviously, we’ve got New Mexico (1-2) coming in this weekend and they’re playing better football … It’s a challenge for us, for sure. We’re excited about that challenge.”

The Minutemen’s offense struggled with ball security in Week 3, turning the ball over four times, as three interceptions and a fumble lost proved to be too much to overcome. The focus for UMass against the Lobos will be limiting those turnovers to put less strain on the defense.

“If you don’t take care of the ball, you’re going to have a hard time winning the game,” Brown said. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we’re not having this discussion right now.”

The offense could be in for some rejuvenation with the possibility of a quarterback change. Week 0 and 1 starting quarterback Taisun Phommachanh hasn’t seen the field since Sept. 2 against Auburn and could be a candidate to get back in the lineup against New Mexico.

“Everything’s going smoothly, so we’ll see,” Brown said about Phommachanh’s rehabilitation. “Right now, everything seems to be moving in the right direction.”

After back-to-back losses that were competitive throughout, and finishing with a less than 14-point margin, the Minutemen are looking to compete for all 60 minutes against the Lobos.

“I think we just need to stay together,” captain center Josh Atwood said. “I think we’re really close to making a lot of plays happen. We just need to strain to get that last effort there to finish our plays. I think we’re really close, but we just need to finish.”

The Week 4 matchup is the first time the two teams have faced off against each other. Both squads come in averaging roughly the same number of points per game offensively, with New Mexico scoring 27.67 and UMass at 25. Both teams have five touchdowns through the air and six on the ground.

The defensive scoring is where the similarities end with the Minutemen’s points against per game at 37.25. On the other hand, the Lobos sit at 29.67. Even with these numbers, UMass knows all it can do is focus on the game at hand.

“Every week is a new week,” Brown said. “Every week is a scenario of taking the challenge and going out and competing … you’ve got to force your hand and go out and win the game.”

One of the most important pieces of the puzzle for the Minutemen to have success is the continued production of Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams. The junior running back has been the main weapon utilized offensively, currently sitting in third place for rushing yards in the FBS with 366.

The Massachusetts defense has a star in its own right, with Billy Wooden having a strong start to 2023. The senior defensive tackle is tied for second in fumble recoveries and 12th in total sacks in the nation.

With eight games remaining in the season, there is time for the Minutemen to turn things around. It will hinge on the success of their stars and their ability to finish plays throughout each minute of each contest.

“There’s a lot of football left to be played,” Brown said. “You haven’t seen our best yet. That’s coming though. It’s coming, and it’s close.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. from McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The game can be viewed on ESPN+.

Mike Maynard can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mikecmaynard.

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