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 falls to UConn 31-18 to wrap up 2023

Minutemen’s four turnovers make the difference
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts football team suffered a 31-18 defeat to the UConn Huskies on Saturday. The final game of 2023 didn’t go how the Minutemen (3-9) planned, but it was the end to the best season that the program has seen since 2018.

With it being the last game of the 2023 season, 17 seniors were celebrated with a ceremony before kickoff. The players made sure to put on for their last games, filling up the stat sheet both offensively and defensively.

“The way they went about their business, the work ethic … it’s a huge task,” head coach Don Brown said. “… That’s why you’re proud of those guys, because they stuck it out.”

Senior tight end Gino Campiotti left his mark on UMass with a touchdown in the third quarter. After the Minutemen recovered a fumble with great field position, Campiotti lined up in the slot and put a move on the Huskies’ (3-9) Lee Molette III covering him, getting open over the middle of the field. Molette III recovered well, hitting Campiotti at the catch point but was muscled off for a UMass touchdown from 10 yards out.

Billy Wooden was another senior who showed out for his last time in the maroon and white. The defensive tackle was a problem for the UConn offensive line all day, finishing with two and a half tackles for loss and a sack.

The Minutemen struggled to get the ground game going against the Huskies, tallying 59 yards on the ground. For a team that averaged 149.7 rushing yards coming into Saturday, the offense for UMass looked different than its usual self, and in turn, only put 18 points on the board.

“[UConn came] with a seven and eight-man box at times,” Brown said. “… We thought defensively, they played one of their better games.”

Although the running game struggled, Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams found the endzone on two drives in the fourth quarter. After big catches by Anthony Simpson and George Johnson III, Lynch-Adams was set up at the one-yard line. He took a handoff up the gut and got a great push up front from his offensive line, allowing him to put six on the board, untouched with just under 12 minutes on the clock.

Lynch-Adams scored again later in the contest, again getting help from some big chunk plays. Simpson caught 27 and 34-yard receptions back-to-back and Lynch-Adams got a 16-yarder of his own out of the backfield. He yet again found himself at the one-yard line and punched in for his second score of the game, this time with just over two minutes left in the contest.

The rushing touchdowns for Lynch-Adams were his 11th and 12th of the season, extending his record for most by any UMass player in the FBS era. With 51 yards on the day, the redshirt junior running back broke the record of most yards in a season for the Minutemen in the FBS era with 1,157, surpassing former teammate Ellis Merriweather who had 1,138 in 2021.

Simpson finished off his breakout season with a six-reception day, going for 107 yards. This put his season total at 792 yards, the seventh-highest total for a season in the UMass FBS era.

The Huskies got out to an early lead in the first quarter, with most of their success coming off turnovers by the Minutemen. UMass finished the first 15 minutes of the contest with three turnovers, two fumbles and one pick-six and had one more to make it four on the day.

The defense for the Minutemen, although seeing 31 points on the board in the end, held strong through adversity for the majority of the game. The Huskies had five drives that started with 51 or fewer yards to the opposing end zone but scored just 12 points against the defense of UMass.

“We logged some minutes [defensively], but guess what, that’s football,” Brown said. “When that happens, you know, put your big boy pants on and go out and play. I thought the guys kept competing.”

The second half began strong for the Minutemen, forcing a turnover right out of the gate, and going down to score their first points of the game. The team put their first-half offensive struggles in the past, but it was too little too late.

The end result of Saturday’s game didn’t go in favor of UMass, but there were a lot of positives from the 2023 season. Winning its most games since 2018 was definitely taking a step in the right direction.

“The general population, they go by one thing, the wins and losses,” Brown said. “Well, there’s a lot of things that occur, that you can see us taking the jump.”

Mike Maynard can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mikecmaynard.

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