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 to Eastern Michigan 19-17

Eagles score go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 remaining
Kayla Wong
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts football team suffered its third loss of the season Saturday, but unlike the first two, it was in it until the very end.

UMass (1-3) put up a comeback attempt in the game’s late stages, but ultimately fell 19-17 to an Eastern Michigan squad that needed a last-minute touchdown to obtain its winning record.

“[I] thought we played about as well as we could play,” head coach Don Brown said. “On defense, we survived four turnovers, and kept [the] game close. We had a major coverage gaffe between two players that were doubling a receiver, and obviously that led to the go-ahead score in the end.”

That go-ahead score was the result of a five-play drive from Eagles’ (2-1) quarterback Austin Smith after finding his team down for the first time all game. 77 seconds after the drive began, a 50-yard touchdown toss to Hamze El-Zayat gave Eastern Michigan the lead for good.

Despite back-to-back touchdowns late in the fourth, a scoring drive was a rarity for both squads throughout the contest. For the Eagles specifically, after opening with 10 unanswered points, Brown and Keith Dudzinski’s defense held Eastern Michigan in check, making it far less effective than it was in the game’s initial moments.

One of the catalysts for the defense’s improved performance came in the middle of the second quarter. Up 10-0, Eagles running back Samson Evans took a carry and followed his blocks to what looked like a back-breaking 61-yard touchdown run.

That is, if it weren’t for Minutemen linebacker Gerrell Johnson, who chased down the graduate student and punched the ball out of his hands and through the end zone for a touchback.

That seven-point swing kept UMass in the contest, and it held Eastern Michigan to under 150 second-half yards.

Thanks to Johnson’s play and other notable performances from Minutemen defenders, the Eagles couldn’t fully rid themselves of their opponents. Even after El-Zayat’s fourth-quarter touchdown, thanks to a missed extra point, UMass only had to gain around 45 yards in 80 seconds to attempt a game-winning field goal.

However, any hopes of a game-winning drive from the Minutemen were soon dashed. Ultimately, their comeback effort ended in a drive with zero first downs.

In his second start in relief of an injured Taisun Phommachanh, UMass quarterback Carlos Davis had an up-and-down performance. Davis finished 23-of-41 for 340 yards and a touchdown, but his good reads were offset by three interceptions.

“I think [Davis] played well when he had to,” Brown said. “When we had a chance to win the game, he played his best.”

It’s to be debated whether Davis truly played his best down the stretch, but regardless, his and the UMass offense’s play was much better than in the first quarter, where all three of its drives ended in turnovers.

The first came from wideout Anthony Simpson, who coughed the ball up after a 16-yard gain. After forcing an Eastern Michigan punt, the following Minutemen drive made their way into opponent territory before Davis threw his first of three interceptions on the day, a deep ball that fell into the hands of junior defensive back Quentavius Scandrett. A few minutes later, a second pick was thrown to fellow junior Bennett Walker, who would also snag Davis’ third and final pick.

Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams was one of UMass’ bright spots, as the former Rutgers running back ran for a career-high 129 yards and a touchdown. Elsewhere on offense, former quarterback-turned-tight end Gino Campiotti came down with his first touchdown of the year.

“When you look at the effort, how hard [we] worked, you feel good,” Brown said. “[I’m] tired of talking about those kinds of things [though], would rather be talking about wins.”

“This one will take a little longer … to get over with.”

Next up for the Minutemen is New Mexico, the first of a three-game homestand at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. That game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN+ next Saturday.

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

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