The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department

Amherst Wire

UMass falls short against Arkansas State, turns focus to Toledo

UMass has lost their last five games but looks for a win at home against Toledo
UMass Football on X

UMass dropped their second home game in a row last weekend in a blowout loss 52-28 against Arkansas State. The Minutemen suit up again Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium against the Toledo Rockets.

Starting quarterback Taisun Phommachanh returned from injury this past weekend. He went 29-38, threw for  269 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

UMass’ coaching staff was happy to have him back in the fold, “I thought he exhibited great leadership ability during the course of the game,” said Head Coach Don Brown in his Monday press conference. 

The Minutemen once again fell victim to the slow starts that have plagued them this season and were down 17-0 at the end of the first. This continued throughout the second quarter as they finished the half down 31-10. The constant deficit forced UMass to air the ball out which led to a solid day for wide receiver Mark Pope who caught six passes for 85 yards. 

However, the aerial attack left star running back Kay’ron Lynch-Adams out of the game plan. He only carried the ball 13 times for 43 yards. UMass fourth-year running back Greg Desrosiers Jr. had a breakout game recording two touchdowns last week along with 123 total yards.

The UMass offensive line struggled throughout the game as well. They gave up nine tackles for a loss and allowed four sacks. 

Comparatively, the UMass defense only recorded two tackles for a loss and one sack. The defensive side of the ball stumbled for the Minutemen. Red Wolves freshman quarterback Jaylen Raynor threw for 383 yards, 6 touchdowns, and completed 80% of his passes. 

Raynor’s six touchdowns tied a 2018 Arkansas State record for touchdown passes in a single game. UMass’ rushing defense was solid; they allowed only 4.48 yards per carry. However, the six passing touchdowns were too much to overcome.

UMass Looks for First Win Since August 26th

For week 6, UMass turns its attention to a 4-1 Toledo team that has won four straight games. 

Phommachanh will look to ease back into running the football. His season-high rushing yards of 96 came in the first game of the season against New Mexico State. Last weekend, UMass called zero-designed runs for Phommachanh but will look to increase this number against Toledo. 

The emergence of Desrosiers Jr. suggests that the Minutemen could have a two-headed rushing attack on their hands. Lynch-Adams will still maintain the bulk of the carries, but Desrosiers Jr. can be a pass-catching weapon from the backfield. His downfield speed and elusiveness will also make him a vital weapon for the offensive attack this weekend. 

Unfortunately, starting cornerbacks Isaiah Rutherford and Jordan Mahoney suffered injuries in last weekend’s game. In their absence, UMass will turn to fifth-year senior Dashaun Jerkins, and fourth-year corner Juan Lua to fill their shoes and shut down the Toledo passing attack. 

Despite a lacking pass rush from Billy Wooden last weekend, he will attempt to get back on the stat sheet and add to his 4.5 sacks this season. 

Toledo Looks to Start 5-1 for First Time Since 2017

Toledo enters the game with a 4-1 record, with their one loss coming on a last-second field goal against Illinois on the road. The Rockets boast two home conference wins against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. 

The offense is led by fifth-year dual-threat quarterback Dequan Finn. Finn has completed 66.4% of his passes this season and tacked on 960 passing yards to pair with ten touchdowns and four interceptions. Also, he has accounted for 280 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. However, Toledo has a two-headed rushing attack as Maryland transfer, Peny Boone has run for five touchdowns and 526 rushing yards.

Finn’s favorite targets in the passing game include sophomore Junior Vandeross III who recorded 147 receiving yards and a touchdown last weekend. Finn has also turned to Jerjuan Newton who has seven touchdowns through five games on the season. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Rockets are led by leading tackler Dallas Gant. Gant is a linebacker who has 38 tackles on the season thus far. Gant has also tallied 2.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. On the defensive line, outside linebacker Jeremiah Peters leads with 6.5 tackles for a loss and defensive tackle Judge Culpepper leads the team with five sacks. 

The secondary is led by ballhawk, Quinyon Mitchell who has seven pass breakups this season. Mitchell was second in the entire country last year with 19 pass breakups. Safeties Emmanuel McNeil-Warren and Nate Bauer have combined for 57 tackles and two interceptions on the year as well. Throwing against Toledo’s secondary is a difficult task that UMass will need to overcome if they want any chance at winning.

Keys to the Game

1. UMass must get on the board first, and maintain a lead into halftime. Throughout the first quarter this season, UMass has been outscored 65-14. The Minutemen have also been outscored 138-58 in the first half this season. Slow starts have plagued the UMass offense and even when the defense has kept them in games, the deficit has been too much for the Minutemen to overcome.

2. The Minutemen must win in the trenches. As previously stated, UMass allowed nine tackles for a loss last weekend and only added two for themselves on defense. The Minutemen need to toughen up on the offensive line and create rushing lanes for Lynch-Adams and Phommachanh to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark again this season. They will also need Wooden and Marcus Bradley in the backfield to cause havoc for the Toledo offensive line.

3. Get third-year wide receiver Anthony Simpson back onto the stat sheet. Simpson has been the top receiver for UMass this season but was held to only 33 yards last weekend. Simpson eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the two weeks prior. Getting there again will help ensure a win for the Minutemen.

This will be the eighth all-time matchup between UMass and Toledo. The Rockets of Toledo lead the all-time matchup 6-1, winning the last six matchups. Last year’s matchup was a 55-10 blowout that saw Toledo victorious on their home turf. The Minutemen will look to avenge that loss Saturday afternoon with a victory over the Rockets.

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