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 preps for homecoming clash against Merrimack

Minutemen look for back-to-back wins for first time in five seasons
Kalina Kornacki

After nearly one month away from home, the Massachusetts football team returns to McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday to take on the Merrimack Warriors. UMass is coming off its second win of the season against Army, with the program looking to continue its winning ways on homecoming weekend against an FCS opponent in the Warriors (4-4, 3-2 Northeast).

The Minutemen (2-7) sit at two wins on the season for the first time since 2018, and according to head coach Don Brown, there’ll be no slowing down anytime soon.

“In terms of complacency, I can promise you the guys won’t be complacent,” Brown said. “[There] won’t be that issue. Got an opportunity to take care of business two weeks in a row, let’s go. Now we got to put our foot on that gas pedal.”

If UMass wants to hit that theoretical gas pedal, it’ll likely be thanks to junior running back Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams, who put himself right back into the conversation for the FBS’s leading rusher. After a 234-yard outburst last Saturday against the Black Knights, the former Rutgers transfer now ranks fourth in the nation with 926 rushing yards.

UMass quarterback Taisun Phommachanh has looked healthier each week. Against Army, he went 17-of-23 for 121 yards and no interceptions.

On defense, the Minutemen look to get healthier in the secondary, as injuries have crippled that group’s depth all season.

“We had, really, four active corners [against Army] and they all played…it was like, ‘what the heck are we going to do?’” Brown said.

“It was a concern for sure,” he added. “We’re trying desperately to get [Jordan] Mahoney back this week and Noah [Boykin] back and then we’ll be back in a normal scenario, but for that week, we were really shorthanded.”

As for their opponent, similarly to the Minutemen, Merrimack makes its name in the ground game. The Warriors boast a rushing defense that allows just over 110 rushing yards a contest, good for 17th in the FCS, and a rushing offense that ranks 15th with 206 rushing yards-per-game.

“They’re a run-first team, there’s no doubt about it,” Brown said. “They’ve had several games where they’ve thrown the ball between 14 and 20 times… [If] we don’t stop the run, we’re going to have a problem.”

The head of Merrimack’s rushing attack is junior Tyvon Edmonds Jr., one of the best backs in FCS. The White Plains, Maryland native has already amassed the millennium mark in rushing yards this season, putting up 1,025 in just eight games.

Edmonds’ strongest performance came in the Warriors’ third game against NCCAA side Virginia University of Lynchburg, when he averaged over seven yards per carry in a 213-yard performance.

Elsewhere on offense, Merrimack’s quarterback for the last four games has been junior Malakai Anthony. The Washington, D.C. native has thrown the ball just 37 times on the season, completing 19 of those passes for 439 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. Sophomore wideout Donovan Wadley is the team’s leading receiver with 340 yards and three scores.

On defense, Merrimack’s leader in tackles is redshirt freshman linebacker DJ Frazier, with 40 on the season. Junior defensive lineman Chiebuka Aduaka is tops on the team in sacks with 3.5, while defensive backs Tre Jordan III and Darion McKenzie are tied atop the interception leaderboard with a pair each.

With UMass’ second bye week coming after Saturday’s contest, Brown stressed in Monday’s press conference how important it is not to overlook the Warriors.

“You just got to get ready to play the game that’s in front of you,” Brown said. “And that’s my goal, my job and our coaching staff’s job, is to get our guys ready to play at a high level… This is game week. We got to go. We’ll worry about the bye when we get there.”

Phommachanh echoed his head coach’s statement.

“We got some momentum going a little bit, and I think it’s important that we don’t take [any] weeks off just because, playing Merrimack or anybody, we got to treat it the same way as if we’re playing Penn State,” the quarterback said.

“So we got to go in there…go to work this week [and] come out victorious.”

The in-state matchup will occur Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Amherst. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.


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

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  • J

    Jim WendelNov 2, 2023 at 10:18 pm

    Great Article. Leaves me excited about seeing the game on Saturday. Good job.