Spring game a culmination for UMass football

  • UMass quarterback Tyler Lytle was 5-of-10 for 77 yards and a touchdown during Saturday’s spring game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass tight end Josiah Johnson skied for a touchdown catch during the red zone period of Saturday’s spring game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Running back Kay’Ron Adams finished with 60 yards and two touchdowns on the ground during UMass’ spring game Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Running back Ellis Merriweather finished with 12 carries for 55 yards during UMass’ spring game Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 4:01:36 PM

AMHERST – UMass’ defense tried to ice kicker Cameron Carson before the final play of Saturday’s spring game.

The Minutemen’s offense lined up for a field goal to potentially clinch a victory in the red zone lockout period of the supersized final spring practice at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. It held a six-point advantage over the defense on the final possession. If the field goal missed, UMass’ defense would claim the victory. A make would deliver a win to the offense.

After the timeout, UMass’ defense started cheering, even walking out onto the field to turn up the volume on Carson. He delivered from 24 yards out to cement the 27-22 victory.

The offense rushed from its sideline and piled on in celebration.

“I had all the confidence in the world it was going through the uprights,” UMass quarterback Tyler Lytle said. “We executed perfectly, and I think it was a great way to cap off a great spring.”

Competition has defined the spring session. Whether it’s among position groups or between the offense and defense, the Minutemen have measured themselves against each other.

The defense, as they had for most of the spring, was up to the task in the scrimmage’s open field portion, winning 11-7. During that portion, the offense scored normally whereas the defense received seven points for a touchdown, three points for forcing a turnover or a fourth down stop and one point for a three and out or holding the offense to a field goal in the red zone.

There were eight possessions in the open field. Only one ended in an offensive touchdown.

On the offense’s third drive, Lytle’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, but Tray Pettway snatched it out of the air and ran for a 32-yard score.

“I just kind of laughed. Heck of a heads up play,” Lytle said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always happen how it’s supposed to, but we made it work.”

Otherwise, the defense forced two three and outs and made three fourth down stops.

“We ant everybody to keep doubting us. Keep talking down on us. We want to come out and give them something they won’t expect. I love to be the underdog,” UMass cornerback Noah Boykin said. “Even though our defense is stronger, we’ve still got something to prove. When we line up between them lines, we gonna show ’em.”

Rutgers transfer running back Kay’Ron Adams put his stamp on the event once it transitioned to the red zone. He scored two touchdowns, reversing fields and breaking tackles during both.

“We don’t want to leave points out on the field. Six is always better than three,” Adams said. “When we get down there, it’s a big thing to make sure we punch it in.”

Adams finished with a team-high 60 yards on eight carries. Ellis Merriweather toted it 12 times for 55 yards, and Jared Chisari added 45 yards rushing and 22 yards receiving.

“Jonathan White, who did not play today with a bit of a rib injury has a chance to be special, too,” Bell said. “We’re really excited about all those tailbacks.”

In the red zone segment, the offense scored three touchdowns: the two Adams runs and a Lytle one-yard touch pass to Josiah Johnson. They also kicked two field goals and missed one. Boykin intercepted Garrett Dzuro for the day’s only live ball turnover.

“It was a culmination of what’s already been done. We’ve had a great spring,” Bell said. “We’ve had an unbelievable amount of good work. We’ve got wonderful kids who are doing everything they can to get us to the first bowl game in the history of this institution.”

QUARTERBACKS STILL COMPETING – Despite Lytle completing the most passes for the most yards, throwing the only touchdown pass and being on the field for three of UMass’ four touchdowns, Bell declined to declare him the starter after the game.

Lytle was the first quarterback to take snaps, but he, Dzuro and Zamar Wise each took an equal number of snaps with the starting offense and No. 2 group, Bell said.

Lytle was 5-for-10 for 77 yards and two scores.

Dzuro went 3-for-9 for 24 yards with an interception, while Wise as 2-for-7 for 22 yards. Lytle ran for 15 yards, while Wise added four. The quarterbacks were considered down when they were touched, so none of them were able to showcase much scrambling ability, an area Wise excels.

“We got them all in the game equally. We’re still in the middle of a competition,” Bell said. “Excited for (Class of 2021 commit) Brady Olson to show up in fall camp, as well as the summer.”

ARE THOSE CHEERS? – Select family, friends and UMass supporters were allowed to attend the game at McGuirk Alumni stadium, the first time fans saw the Minutemen play since the 2019 season finale.

“It was really just our football family. It was a really special day, one of my favorite spring set ups I’ve ever been a part of,” Bell said. “I love it that way. I wouldn’t mind it being that way forever.”

NEXT STEPS – UMass will hold its exit meetings Monday and Tuesday, then the coaching staff will take its vacations in May once the players are off campus. That’s to be prepared for the upcoming recruiting period that starts June 1 which will allow them to work out players that visit campus.

Once June 1 hits the staff will be on campus with players there for the summer, parsing the spring film and preparing for the fall.

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

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