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

UMass looks to end losing streak against Arkansas State

Minutemen losing streak sits at four games
Devin Lippman

After the first overtime game for the Massachusetts football team in just under five years last Saturday, it faces Arkansas State for the second consecutive year in the middle game of the Minutemen’s (1-4) three-game homestand. Last year’s contest against the Red Wolves (2-2) ended with a 35-33 loss for Massachusetts.

Ahmad Haston and company made sure UMass didn’t go quietly into the night last Saturday, but that contest ended the same way the past four have for the Minutemen, as they lost in overtime 34-31 to New Mexico. Haston finished 5-of-5 with 102 yards passing, a touchdown to Anthony Simpson and a two-point conversion to Gino Campiotti that sent the game to overtime. Haston was the quarterback at the end of the fourth quarter and during overtime, and he could find himself in a similar situation this coming week with uncertainty about who will be under center.

Taisun Phommachanh has not been seen on-field since Sept. 2, when he suffered an undisclosed injury against Auburn. Carlos Davis has suffered a couple of dings in the past couple of weeks, leaving with injury in the games against Miami of Ohio and the aforementioned New Mexico.

“[It’s] too early to really give you a good update, nothing really yet,” head coach Don Brown said, regarding the injuries to both Phommachanh and Davis. “Obviously [Phommachanh has] been working hard in rehab … [Davis], we don’t have an answer yet.”

Regardless of who the signal caller is for UMass, one constant remains true — the favorite target in the passing game is Simpson. Through five games, he leads the team in receptions with 19 and has over 200 more receiving yards than second place George Johnson III (393 and 168 receiving yards, respectively).

These numbers from Simpson come with the added fact that the Minutemen, especially on offense, get off to slower starts than their competitors. In its previous game, UMass was outscored by 14 in the first half against the Lobos and held to three points in the first half against Eastern Michigan.

The defense suffers from the same condition, as the Minutemen allowed 28 first-half points in their previous contest before pitching a shutout in the second half.

“The bottom line is, sustaining [the offense] throughout the first half [has] really been the issue,” Brown said. “We battled back in our first home game … we kept battling again [last Saturday] … we’ve talked about speeding up practice.”

The Red Wolves and the Minutemen are similar in the fact they both allow more points than they score themselves. Arkansas State allows 38.50 points to the 19.50 that it scores compared to UMass’ 26.20 points per game for, and 36.60 points per game against. The Red Wolves pass slightly more than they run the ball, averaging 174.75 yards in the air per game while averaging 162.3 on the ground.

Arkansas State uses three consistent signal callers, with Jaylen Raynor, J.T. Shrout and Jaxon Dailey all seeing time under center through the first four games. Shrout has thrown the most passes as quarterback, but it’s Raynor who is the most successful, being the only quarterback to throw a touchdown so far.

The Red Wolves use a running back by committee, with two consistent running backs being used this season. Both Ja’Quez Cross and Zak Wallace have appeared in every game, and each has at least a touchdown. This is different from the UMass running back room which sees Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams as the definitive RB1.

“[Arkansas State] is going to be going with a new quarterback, a true freshman … obviously has some running ability,” Brown said. “We [got to] be ready, not only for the run game and that department, but [Raynor’s] ability to run, but also throwing the deep-ball.”

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

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JDepin101.

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