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 football heads back on the road to No. 6 Penn State

Nittany Lions mark the Minutemen’s toughest test to date
Devin Lippman


After a 1-0 start, the Massachusetts football team is now 1-6. The team looks to end its recent slide, which includes four home losses.

“If you look at it, four of the last five games, we’ve been very competitive,” Head Coach Don Brown said on Monday’s press conference. “We need to get that second win and get over the hump and then don’t look back.”

But if the Minutemen want to accomplish that goal Saturday, it’s going to take more than just a good performance.

UMass’ next matchup is against No. 6 Penn State (5-0, 3-0 Big Ten), one of college football’s powerhouses and a team that has won its first five games by an average of nearly 25 points. Over 100,000 fans will be on hand in Beaver Stadium to watch the Minutemen take on a College Football Playoff hopeful.

“Put the music on nice and loud,” Brown said when asked about how his team will handle the raucous environment. “Try and get the guys used to being in chaos periods. We do that Thunderstruck [drill], which is kind of a ritual every day in practice … as loud as we can do it and as fast as we can do it.”

The Nittany Lions’ quarterback is sophomore Drew Allar, a five-star recruit out of high school who chose Penn State over a multitude of other power-conference offers. As a first-year starter, he’s currently 102-of-158 for 1,092 passing yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Allar’s favorite target has been junior wideout KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who’s hauled in 25 catches for over 350 yards and three touchdowns this season. In the backfield, the Nittany Lions rely on a pair of sophomore running backs, with Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton rushing for 307 and 283 yards on the season, respectively.

Arguably Penn State’s best offensive talent isn’t at a skill position. Junior offensive tackle Olu Fashanu has done exceptionally well this season in run and pass protection, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has him ranked as the 6th-best prospect overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

On the other side of the ball, the Nittany Lion defense has been stellar all season. The unit is first in the nation in both yards allowed per game (210.6) and first downs allowed (58).

“[Penn State’s defense is] a great challenge,” Brown said. “Their offense stays on the field which, the defense then is allowed to just let it rip and go when they hit the field … if you go through and look at the amount of plays that they’ve seen, I think it’s as low as anybody in the country.”

For the Minutemen, their scoring output likely depends on big games out of Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams and Anthony Simpson. The running back-wide receiver duo currently rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing yards and receiving yards, with 661 and 566 yards, respectively.

“It’s nice to see a couple of the guys that we recruited in this class plus [Lynch-Adams] getting paid,” Brown said.

“They’re really playing at a very solid level. And with [Lynch-Adams], despite the workload, he has certainly lived up to his end of the bargain and has stayed healthy so far this year.”

To add some stakes to the matchup, this game also takes place during Penn State’s homecoming weekend. The Nittany Lions will wear their “Generations of Greatness” uniform to honor past rosters.

Saturday’s kickoff is at 3:30 p.m., and the game can be watched on the Big Ten Network.

“It’s just another game,” UMass quarterback Taisun Phommachanh said. “100-plus thousand in the stands but we just got to do what we’ve been doing, execute the offense.”

“Having a crowd like this around you definitely brings a little bit more juice, a little bit more hype around a game. But at the end of the day, once you’re in between the white lines, it’s football,” Phommachanh said.

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

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  • J

    Jim WendelOct 17, 2023 at 9:24 am

    Great article.

  • R

    Rob BelgeriOct 12, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    Are every available paramedic, EMT, ambulance, and trauma center on alert? This is the peak example of a meat-grinder game that guarantees a bit of money for UMass to pump up the W’s total for PSU and put UMass players on the road to lifetime disability. It is impossible to be too cynical about the decision to schedule this opponent.