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

Toledo defeats UMass in tale of two halves

Rockets ride 21-point third quarter to 17-point win
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2023)

The outlook was positive for the Massachusetts football team. It was heading into halftime with a 70-yard touchdown and four-point advantage over the Toledo Rockets. The 19-point underdogs were in solid position to grab its second win of the season.

Football is a game of two halves though, and fortunes can change quickly. UMass (1-5) witnessed that firsthand Saturday as its four-point lead evaporated and turned into a 17-point loss, 41-24.

“For the first 35, 37 minutes, [the team’s] doing things they’re [being asked] of,” head coach Don Brown said.

Early on, it looked like Toledo (5-1, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) was going to coast to a blowout win. The Rockets responded from an early Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams touchdown in resounding fashion. After a 38-yard field goal on their first drive, junior quarterback Dequan Finn led the Rockets on two more scoring possessions, both of which ended in touchdowns.

The first Toledo touchdown came late in the first. After marching into the outskirts of the red zone, Peny Boone faced little resistance on his way to a 21-yard rushing touchdown. After a UMass punt, the Rockets continued to dice through the Minutemen defense with ease leading to another score, this one an eight-yard toss from Finn to Jerjuan Newton.

“[We said they] just got to keep showing up,” Brown said after falling into an early 10-point deficit. “That was our whole theme going in, show up early, stay late.”

On their first play from scrimmage following Toledo’s second touchdown, the Minutemen showed that staying in the game late was a distinct possibility. Taisun Phommachanh dropped back, surveyed the coverage, and launched a deep ball towards Anthony Simpson that fell right into the receiver’s hands. With this 71-yard touchdown, UMass showed that this game could be its for the taking.

Following their score, good plays occurred at an alarmingly quick rate for the Minutemen. After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Minutemen offense was moving once again, this time matching Toledo’s earlier drives with consistent 10–15-yard plays. The drive concluded with a 31-yard receiving touchdown by George Johnson III, the beneficiary of a crafty play call that saw Phommachanh deliver a fake handoff on two reverses. The Minutemen had a 21-17 lead.

Once the second half commenced, however, the Rockets simply overpowered their opponent. Toledo head coach Jason Candle pivoted to a run-heavy offense, and UMass had no answers for Finn and Boone. The duo finished the game combining for over 300 rushing yards, with Finn specifically logging a career-high 172.

“We did a lot of four-man rush against [Finn] to try to help our back end that were playing their first start,” Brown said. “I thought we did a very good job of it in the first half, but in the second half, we [allowed] a couple big runs.”

On defense, the Rockets brought more pressure in the second half which made it tougher for an already injured Phommachanh to find open receivers in the pocket. On the ground, results weren’t much better, with Lynch-Adams held to just 37 rushing yards after recording 120 in the first half.

Penalties killed the Minutemen as well. While statistically, their six penalties were less than their season average, flags came at bad times for the UMass offense. In particular, two big passing plays, one of which would’ve given Johnson his second receiving touchdown, were called back due to illegal man downfield calls against the offensive line.

Phommachanh finished with another solid boxscore in his second start back from injury, going 20-for-31 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. For Toledo, Finn went 15-for-23 for 139 yards but supplemented that with his record rushing day.

“We’re getting better,” Brown said. “We’re getting closer, and there’s things happening in this building that if you came and spent time watching these guys work, you’d feel pretty good about the University of Massachusetts.”

The Minutemen head up to Happy Valley to take on Penn State next. That game kicks off at 3:30 ET and will be on BTN.

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

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