Explosive plays burn UMass football in loss against Buffalo

  • UMass quarterback Garrett Dzuro drops back to pass against Buffalo at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass receiver Geroge Johnson III rips the ball away from Buffalo corner Caleb Offord at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather scores a touchdown against Buffalo at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass corner Jordan Mahoney brings down Buffalo recever Jamari Gaassett at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday Ocotber 15. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass corner Josh Walalce Brings down Buffalo running back Ron Cook Jr. at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass defensive lineman Marcus Bradley closes in on Buffalo running back Al-Jay Henderson at McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2022 7:36:42 PM

AMHERST – Dr. Blitz’s experiments produce explosive results. Sometimes the reactions singe the UMass football team rather than blowing up the opposing offense.

Head coach Don Brown regularly dialed up aggressive defensive calls against Buffalo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. His Minutemen trailed by multiple scores for most of the game and needed a reversal.

The aggression produced big plays, just for Buffalo’s offense instead of UMass’ defense. The Bulls scored three touchdowns longer than 25 yards to drop UMass 34-7, the Minutemen’s fourth straight loss.

“We took a couple of high risk plays because we have to, we don't have a choice. We’ve got to try to generate something to help this football team, and, that came back to bite me,” Brown said. “Do I regret it? No, I don't regret anything like that. Trying to take care of my business and earn the nickname, I guess. I’m a big believer in pressure. Sitting back there doesn’t do it that much for me.”

Buffalo scored the game’s final 27 points and its first 17.

UMass junior Garrett Dzuro started at quarterback for the second game in a row and sparked one touchdown drive early in the second quarter despite leaving last week’s loss to Liberty with a shoulder injury.

“Almost brings tears to my eyes. That’s what you love about football,” Brown said. “Forget the NFL, and all that crap. OK, here's a guy that just wants to play football. That's really it. And he found a way to get his a** on the field, excuse my French. But he did. And if you can't respect that, you know?”

Dzuro hit 2 of 3 passes, the first of which George Johnson III bailed him out of a late throw by levitating over the Buffalo defender to haul in the 25-yard pass on the right sideline. Dzuro finished 7-of-14 for 99 yards and was sacked four times.

Kay’Ron Adams, who led UMass with 52 yards on the ground, then ripped off back to back runs of a dozen yards to put the Minutemen near the red zone.

Dzuro delivered an on-target pass to tight end Josiah Johnson in single coverage in the end zone. A big hit jarred the ball loose. A short pass to Isaiah Ross converted another first down, and Ellis Merriweather finished the drive with a five-yard scoring run up the middle with 7:42.

“It’s nice to have him out there and at our disposal,” Brown said. “Stayed right in the A gap and rode it home.”

That made it 17-7.

Buffalo’s Alex McNulty connected on a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter, then the Minutemen forced a fourth-and-4 to open the second. Buffalo quarterback Cole Snyder found a wide open Quian Williams in the front of the end zone four seconds in for a four-yard touchdown.

After a UMass three and out – one of three by the Minutemen – Buffalo running back Al-Jay Henderson burst up the middle for 84 yards and a score for a 17-0 lead with 12:21 to halftime.

“The killer today is, you give up an explosive run and just look at this, right. So, we give up an 84-yard run, and he ends up with 15 yards the rest of the day,” Brown said. “You don't blow that away, but you know, it's a killer when it when it happens.”

The Minutemen couldn’t contain Snyder’s deep shots. He connected with Justin Marshall for a 49-yard bomb with 5:07 to halftime.

The Bulls could have plunged the knife deeper with a long drive late in the first half, but UMass cornerback Jordan Mahoney stepped in. Snyder’s pass tipped high into the air, and Mahoney worked his way under it for his team-leading third interception, two behind the national lead.

“Last year he was a guy that, quite frankly, got beat up. He's not that guy anymore,” Brown said. “He needs to play all the time at a high level, but he's no different. When you get beat, you gotta go and move on to the next snap.”

The Minutemen held serve after halftime when the Bulls received the third quarter kickoff, but their defensive effort was defined by near misses. Nahji Logan deflected a pass thrown right to him but couldn’t haul in the pick. Josh Wallace also cropped a potential interception but made up for it with his second of the year with five seconds left in the third quarter.

“He got his hands on four balls, could have intercepted three,” Brown said.

But the UMass offense couldn’t turn any of the defense’s stops into answers. The Minutemen generated just 210 yards of offense and averaged 3.67 yards per play.

Snyder threw for 277 yards and three scores, capping his day with a 27 touchdown toss to 11:59 left.

UMass turned its offense over to Zamar Wise after that. The sophomore quarterback completed just 1-of-9 passes for nine yards and ran five times for 17 yards. He drove the Minutemen into the red zone late in the fourth quarter, but UMass turned the ball over on downs.

The Minutemen now have a much-needed bye week. They’ll next play New Mexico State back at McGuirk Alumni Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 29.

“Yeah, we really need it for health, to get guys straightened out, you know, a concept standpoint, little extra time will be spent in the film room,” Brown said. “We're not where I want to be yet. And but I guarantee you we will be. Bottom line, given the opportunity I'm going to fight to the death. There are a couple of times I went home this fall sick to my stomach. It's not that way anymore.”

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


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