Turnovers end UMass football season with lopsided loss to Army

  • UMass receiver George Johnson III stretches for the end zone against Army at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday in Amherst. The Minutemen ended the season with a 44-7 loss against the Black Knights. MIKE HERMAN / FOR THE RECORDER

  • UMass quarterback Brady Olson lines up a throw against Army at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday in Amherst. The Minutemen ended the season with a 44-7 loss against the Black Knights. MIKE HERMAN / FOR THE RECORDER

  • UMass running back Kay’Ron Adams carries the ball against Army on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. MIKE HERMAN / FOR THE GAZETTE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2022 9:10:31 PM

AMHERST – The promise of an opening-drive touchdown wilted in the face of four UMass turnovers, as the Minutemen ended their football season with a 44-7 loss against Army on Saturday.

UMass turned the ball over four times, which led to 24 points by the Black Knights. Quarterback Brady Olson threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, and the Minutemen lost two fumbles.

“We turned the ball over way too much, and unfortunately in inopportune scenarios,” UMass coach Don Brown said. 

Army ran the ball 56 times for 329 yards and scored all six touchdowns on the ground. The Black Knights (5-6) held the ball for more than 33 minutes.

The Minutemen took the opening kickoff 75 yards in nine plays riding Ellis Merriweather’s legs and Olson’s arm. Merriweather carried the ball four times for 36 yards, while Olson completed 2-of-3 passes for 46 yards, including a 27-yard swing pass to Merriweather. Gino Campiotti finished the drive with a two-yard scoring plunge up the middle after a Merriweather fumble was reviewed and reversed. The Minutemen scored their first opening drive touchdown since Oct. 1 at Eastern Michigan to take a 7-0 lead with 10:48 left in the first.

Army (4-6) then ripped off 44 straight points to bury the Minutemen. The Black Knights led 28-7 at halftime behind three Tyler Thier touchdown runs. He led army with 101 yards on the ground and threw for 67.

“That's probably as poorly as we've tackled since Toledo ,” Brown said. “And credit Army. They obviously they have something to do with it.”

UMass’ defense and special teams gifted it a perfect opportunity to narrow the gap midway through the third quarter. The Minutemen held Army on a three and out after a short punt, and UMass’ Isaac Ross returned it to the Army 32. Olson completed three passes in a row to get the Minutemen to the Army 1, and they failed to score on four straight plays, two Gino Campiotti runs and two passes.

“You’re in the moment of thinking you’re in elation and the next thing you know it’s a negative,” Brown said

The Black Knights intercepted Olson twice in the fourth quarter in UMass territory. Fullback Jakobi Buchanan finished the first drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:32 left, and Quinn Maretzki kicked a 20-yard field goal with 4:47 on the clock.

“We shut them out in the third quarter, then in the fourth quarter all hell’s breaking loose,” Brown said.

Olson finished 13-of-24 for 145 yards with the two interceptions before making way for Garrett Dzuro. The Minutemen failed to pick up a first down after failing at the goal line.

Army quarterback Bryson Daily hit the finale rack with a 54-yard touchdown in the final 90 seconds.

The first half stumbled downhill after UMass’ blazing start. The Minutemen forced an Army three and out aided by a false start after Campiotti’s touchdown run, but Olson fumbled on UMass’ 36 the next play attempting a pass. The Black Knights took five plays, and Buchanan rumbled through the UMass defense for a 10-yard game-tying score.

UMass receiver Jacquon Gibson recovered a Merriweather fumble, and Merriweather walked off the field holding his wrist five minutes into the game. He was examined in the medical tent and left the game in a sling before returning to the sidelines late.

UMass’ running game and offense as a whole stumbled without him. Kay’Ron Adams picked up 15 yards on 12 carries, while Greg Desrosiers ran for 12 yards.

“It’s difficult. It’s deflating,” Brown said. “He’s our bell cow back. When you lose your big boy in a game like that, that’s a big loss.”

The Minutemen lost their last nine games, only two by single digits. UMass will now turn its attention to evaluating its players, the transfer portal and the looming early signing period.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m not afraid,” Brown said. “Looking forward to the challenge.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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