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 loses on the road to Liberty University in Saturday’s contest

Gino Campiotti tallies two touchdowns for the Minutemen
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts football team fell to Liberty University on Saturday afternoon at the hands of the Flames’ (11-0, 7-0 CUSA) solid offensive line, versatile quarterback and dominant running back.

Tight end Gino Campiotti kept the second half energy alive for the Minutemen (3-8) with two touchdowns.

Following a 43-yard pass to Mark Pope that moved UMass to Liberty’s 25-yard line, quarterback Taisun Phommachanh found the tight end nearing the end zone. Completing the pass to Campiotti, who was embraced by a Flames defender, the senior fought forward and improved the Minutemen’s score. After the touchdown pass, UMass opted for a two-point conversion that Greg Desrosiers Jr. completed to bring the score to 49-18.

Not allowing UMass to fall behind, even with only 56 seconds left of regulation, Campiotti completed his second touchdown.

On UMass’ final drive, the Minutemen were stationed near midfield where the Flames turned the ball over on downs. Ahmad Haston, who slotted into the quarterback position at the end of the fourth quarter, found Pope twice. Pope was a key element to the UMass offense on Saturday with six receptions for 90 yards. After 11-yard and 13-yard gains back-to-back with the wide receiver, it was time for Campiotti to lock in another touchdown.

Running down the field with his eyes set beyond the pylons, Haston’s 30-yard pass landed perfectly in the tight end’s arms. To secure the touchdown, Campiotti spun around a Liberty defender and stumbled over the goal line. This finalized UMass’ score, and closed out Campiotti’s game with five receptions for 85 yards.

“It was nice to see [Campiotti] get rewarded for execution on those [touchdowns],” head coach Don Brown said.

In the first half, Liberty’s only drive that went scoreless was its final possession. After trying to preserve time on the clock by taking themselves out of bounds after completions, the Flames seemed to have the ability to intelligently take the football down the field once again.

Gerrell Johnson, though, had other plans in mind.

As Liberty quarterback Kaidon Salter surveyed his options and eventually launched the football intended for Errol Rogers Jr., Johnson read the pass and picked off the football with 0:17 left of the second quarter. This was the linebacker’s first career interception.

This helped shift some of the momentum in favor of the Minutemen as they headed into the locker room at halftime.

The first half defense of the Minutemen lacked against the force of the Liberty offensive line, which allowed the Flames to walk their way into the endzone possession after possession.

With defenders busy trying to push their way through, Salter had the ability to survey the field, weigh his options and make last second decisions to keep the ball himself at times. The quarterback led his team in rushing yards with 118 yards and two touchdowns.

“We dug such a big hole in the first half [for ourselves],” Brown said. “It was tough to get out of.”

With the score extending for the Flames, who headed into halftime with a 35-10 lead, the Minutemen came out into the second half with a new defensive strategy.

The Flames tried to use their momentum from Preston Hodge’s 62-yard pick-six on their next possession. However, the UMass defense did not allow Salter to dive his way into the endzone. The quarterback’s decision to keep the football and extend the play beyond the first down completion ended with Salter flipping over to try and drive the football beyond the goal line. As the ball became loose out of his grip at the one-yard line and bounced into the end zone, it was ruled as a touchback.

In the second quarter, UMass was stationed at the 29-yard line and started its drive with a 14-yard pass to Anthony Simpson. After getting caught up and being forced to scramble out of bounds, quarterback Phommachanh and the calm force of Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams did not let the offense stray into chaos.

Lynch-Adams hauled in the hand-off and extended far beyond the chains for a 17-yard rush, which was followed by a 17-yard pass from Phommachanh to George Johnson III. The Minutemen composed themselves at Liberty’s 23-yard line before Phommachanh turned back to Lynch-Adams to finish off the drive.

The running back found a hole in the defenders and danced his way out of trouble. As he shoved past the Flames, Lynch-Adams hit the endzone to put the Minutemen up on the scoreboard with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter.

The effort of the UMass offense, though, could not compete with the composure of the Flames’ offensive line that gave Liberty breathing room for consecutive touchdowns.

“It’s football,” Brown said. “You [have to] play 60 minutes. We didn’t do that.”

For their final game of the season, the Minutemen return home for their matchup against the University of Connecticut. Kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 25 is set for 12 p.m. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“The end result is, ‘You better move on,’ because we’re playing our rival next week,” Brown said.

Sydney Ciano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SydneyCiano.

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