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 falls short in home opener against Miami of Ohio

Minutemen suffer 41-28 loss trying to find rhythm on the field
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

After facing two delays adding up to nearly six hours combined due to severe weather advisory, the Massachusetts football team and the Miami RedHawks split the momentum throughout the night and UMass (1-2) landed with a 41-28 loss. Despite the mental challenges of Saturday evening, George Johnson III and Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams proved to be stable elements of an ever-adjusting offense.

From the first drive of the game in the unconventional home opener, quarterback Carlos Davis relied on Lynch-Adams to be a consistent piece of the offense. As the Minutemen got themselves into a rhythm, the running back broke more tackles and found himself spinning out of trouble. In an offense that started slow, taking up a little over eight minutes of play in the second drive, Davis and Lynch-Adams’ connection grew stronger. The running back ended the night with 57 rushing yards on top of 32 receiving yards.

Part of this rhythm came with switching up the second quarter game plan. From there, Davis’s confidence behind the center skyrocketed.

“[Miami of Ohio] a free access team in terms of coverage,” head coach Don Brown said. “[We had] the opportunity to take advantage of those scenarios with [a] good, short passing game in that seven to eight to 10 range.”

In UMass’ second drive of the third quarter, the offense put the short passing game play into full effect. Johnson III took three short, straight shots in a row before Davis faked the pass and handed it to Lynch-Adams to rush it up the middle. From the building anticipation of the clean drive, Greg Desrosiers met Davis’s 32-yard pass down the field in the endzone.

“[Davis] got himself into a little bit of a groove and he found [Johnson III] on three or four occasions,” Brown said.

It took the redshirt senior quarterback some time to build momentum for the Minutemen. Miami in Ohio’s defensive end Caiden Woullard sacked Davis and stripped the ball at the end of the first quarter. Waiting in the endzone was Hilton Kobe who folded over the football, locking in another six points for the RedHawks (1-1).

Following the second period of delay, Miami in Ohio remained consistent. The RedHawks offense stood just under the one-yard line with the Minutemen ready to pounce at the opportunity of a safety after UMass turned the ball over on downs. After one attempt to carry the football away from the endzone, the RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert threw a deep right shot to Gage Larvadain at the Minutemen’s 35-yard line. Larvadain took the ball all the way down the field for a 99-yard touchdown.

“[Larvadain is their] best offensive threat,” Brown said. “We made the switch and put [Jordan] Mahoney on him… second half of that third quarter I thought we did a good job checking him.”

UMass did not stay stagnant, though, and stepped up to the challenge. In the second quarter, Dashaun Jerkins intercepted Gabbert’s pass intended for Larvadain at the 37-yard line. The ball tipped the wide receiver’s fingers, deflecting into the interception that Jerkins took 63 yards into the endzone for a pick six of his own.

The Jerkins interception changed the dynamic of the Minutemen defense. As the offense, too, hit the field with a slow start, the pick six amped up the sidelines and the stands alike. The defensive line meshed and applied more pressure on Gabbert in the pocket, forcing him to make last minute decisions or throw the ball out of bounds. Sophomore linebacker Derrieon Craig closed the night out with 2.5 sacks for loss.

“[Craig]… this guy is a major talent,” Brown said. “[He has to] pay attention to his jobs on the field and execute at a high level. He’s starting to do that now. And he is fast, but now he’s starting to play fast with the scheme in mind so he’s matching his skills with the position [he plays].”

As both defenses were fired up, looking for interceptions and blitzes at any open opportunity, the Minutemen fell just short of the RedHawks energy. With Davis slotting into the starting quarterback position in Taisun Phommachanh’s absence then being substituted by third-string quarterback Brady Olson at the 7:51 mark of the fourth quarter, UMass spent the night trying to find its rhythm while Miami of Ohio hit the ground running.

The Minutemen are slated to hit the road for the third time this season on Saturday, Sept. 16. Kickoff against the Eastern Michigan Eagles is set for 2 p.m.

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

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