UMass football notebook: 3rd quarter blues apparent for Minutemen

  • UMass linebacker Jalen Mackie (49), right, takes down Liberty quarterback Nate Hampton (10) for a loss in the first quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass wide receiver Jamir Roberts (8), right, runs downfield after a reception before being taken down by Liberty safety Quinton Reese (16) in the second quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2022 7:54:37 PM

AMHERST — Halftime has hampered the UMass football team.

The Minutemen have been outscored 80-6 in the third quarter this season. They held Stony Brook without a point in the third frame of their only win, kicking a field goal. UMass also had a field goal at Eastern Michigan in the third.

“The big thing is you’ve got to play really good in the first half to get to the second half. We’re trying to get our guys to understand that when you’re at the half it’s 21-10 that’s less than two scores,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “We’ve got to do a better job in terms of understanding and in terms of execution.”

Other than that, the opposition has rolled. Opponents have outscored UMass by 80 points in the second half, an average of 13.3 points per game. The Minutemen have only put up 23 points in the second half all season, and 14 came in Saturday’s fourth quarter against Liberty.

“I thought we made a couple strides (against Liberty),” Brown said.

The Minutemen were on the field first defensively and made two stops before penalties hurt them. UMass has committed 55 penalties this season, tied for the second most in the country with Utah State. Only Houston’s 59 are greater, or worse, depending on the angle.

UMass has put together at least a strong quarter in every game it has played. Their failures have been sustaining that consistency and execution for an entire game, or at least longer than their opponent. Some of that is owed to youth, but the Minutemen get older and more experienced every game.

“We’re really young. I mean, really young. Not making any excuses – we’re big boys – but I can see progress in our football team across the board,” Brown said.

The Minutemen notice it, as well can feel they are approaching a more complete game.

“We’re, I feel, 100 percent ready. I think we’re more than ready,” UMass running back Greg Desrosiers said. “We’re a smart group, a strong and durable group to play a 60-minute game.”

CIRCLE THE WAGONS – Buffalo (3-3) enters Saturday’s game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium (1 p.m., ESPN3) leading the MAC East division and on a three-game winning streak. The teams haven’t met since 2015 when UMass was a MAC member, and the Minutemen prevailed 31-26 to close the season.

“They’re a funny club. They’ve had some difficult ones as well, but they’re playing well recently. They’re a meat and potatoes team. They’re gonna run the ball at you,” Brown said. “They’re a solid team. You’re going to have to beat this team. This is a really big challenge for us.”

Running back Mike Washington is tied for the MAC lead with six touchdowns on the ground. He has 409 yards on the ground, 155 of which came last time out against Bowling Green.

Buffalo linebacker Shaun Dolac leads the nation with 51 solo tackles, and his 67 total tackles rank fifth.

The Bulls also lead the MAC in time of posession (33 minutes, 1 second per game) and have the league’s fewest penalties (34).

INJURIES – UMass had nine inactive players Saturday against Liberty: running backs Ellis Merriweather and Tim Baldwin, starting receivers Cam Sullivan-Brown, Rico Arnold and longtime receiver Jermaine Johnson, starting tackle Max Longman, defensive lineman Devin Baldwin, defensive back Te’Rei Powell and fullback Charles Payson.

Brown didn’t give specific updates about players injured or returning but indicated the list shouldn’t be as long Saturday.

“We’ve got guys I know that are back in the lineup, so I’m not going to get into names and all that,” Brown said. “But yeah, we’ll be in better shape than we were last week for sure.”

QB MYSTERY – UMass started its third quarterback in six games when Garrett Dzuro took the field first against Liberty. He led the Minutemen to a touchdown in the first quarter but left with an injury later in the first half. Dzuro, who was recovering from a shoulder injury for much of the spring, finished 5-of-7 for 83 yards through the air but took four sacks.

“His status is day to day. We’re keeping our fingers crossed there. I thought he gave us a big lift,” Brown said. “I would have liked to have seen him stay in and finish, but that’s part of football too.He’s an energetic guy who was in my office Sunday. He was ready to go. We’ll see.”

HOME STRETCH – UMass is playing its second of three consecutive games at home after starting with four of its first five on the road.

“You’re just grateful to play on Saturdays, to be honest, but when you’re able to do that at home, it certainly is a positive, the lot of friendly faces, in the crowd around us,” Brown said. “It’s nice to be able to get a good night’s sleep and get up and go to work the next day.”

Buffalo may be the only team that has logged more time away from home than the Minutemen. The Bulls are playing their fifth road game out of the first seven contests.

MORE MAHONEY – Defensive back Jordan Mahoney is tied for the team lead with two touchdowns after scoring on a fumble return against the Flames. He brought back an interception to the house in the home opener against Stony Brook.

The sophomore from South Carolina has 19 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break ups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries this year.

“He was a guy that was pretty maligned a year ago, and he’s taken that next step. Again, he’s a young guy who’s finding his way. His confidence level is high. He plays the ball when it’s in the air, and I think he can compete with anybody, on any on any plateau,” Brown said. “At the corner position when he plays good press coverage, he’s as good as anybody.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter


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