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 Football travels west to take on the Army Black Knights

This will be the sixth matchup in the series between the teams that began in 1977
Kalina Kornacki

While UMass may no longer be fighting for bowl eligibility, the season is far from over as there are several winnable games left on the calendar. The final stretch of the season begins Saturday with a road trip to West Point for a meeting with Army. The Minutemen are coming off a bye week following a 63-0 loss to Penn State. The Black Knights have also struggled this season and find themselves with a 2-5 record following a 62-0 defeat against LSU.

UMass Will Fight for a Win

The Minutemen may be reeling from their defeat, and Army is a tough team to defend against, but the Minutemen have shown they have the ability to win. Despite losing close games, UMass has not been able to consistently finish which has held them back. 

However, there are many bright spots in certain players that will make impact plays on Saturday. This starts with running back Kay’ron Lynch-Adams. The fifth-year running back has been a focal point of the UMass offense this season. Like most of the team, Lynch-Adams struggled against Penn State. However, he has carried the ball for more than 100 yards in three games this season. His six total touchdowns are the most of any player on the team. 

Another offensive skill player who will look to break out this weekend is wide receiver George Johnson III. While he has only recorded 286 yards this season, his best game came two weeks ago against Toledo where he caught three balls for 60 yards and a touchdown. Johnson III has the potential to serve as an excellent compliment to fellow receiver Anthony Simpson and be another weapon for quarterback Taisun Phommachanh. 

While the defense struggled against Penn State, there are a few players who will look to continue strong performances from that game. 

JB Brown, a transfer from Arizona has primarily been a rotational defensive lineman this season but broke out against Penn State. Brown recorded six tackles and a sack.

Redshirt sophomore and defensive tackle Aaron Beckwith should also see an increased role after recording six tackles against the Nittany Lions. 

Along with those two, the Minutemen expect to see increased performances on the stat sheet from the defensive linemen Jerry Roberts and Billy Wooden. 

In the secondary, Isaiah Rutherford returned against Penn State after missing the game against Toledo. While his day was quiet, he did force a fumble on Penn State’s first drive which was recovered by safety Tyler Rudolph.

Army Fights for Bowl Eligibility

The Black Knights historically ran a triple-option offense which is unique in modern football, but have now evolved into a passing-focused offense. 

With the evolution of offenses in modern football, Army has been slowly adding to its passing arsenal. However, they are still throwing for the third least amount of yards per game so far this season. On the ground, they are averaging 174 yards per game which is 39th in the country. 

Army football is led by junior quarterback Bryson Daily who is the team’s leading rusher and passer. Daily has thrown for 712 yards and six touchdowns across six games. On the ground, Daily has carried the ball 100 times for 460 yards.

Other focal points of the running game are freshman Kanye Udoh and sophomore Hayden Reed. Udoh has 292 yards on the season and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Reed has tallied 198 yards and two touchdowns so far. 

Army’s defense has struggled immensely this season allowing 408.8 yards per game and 463.7 over their last three games. Their defense is not headlined by any star talent but by a few role players at their positions. 

First, linebacker Kalib Fortner who has tallied 37 tackles on the season which is second on the team. That stat is paired with two tackles for a loss. 

On the back end, senior Jabari Moore has led the secondary with four pass breakups. Along with being the best cover corner on the team, Moore has added two tackles for a loss.

Keys to the Game

Win in the run game. UMass has the third-worst rushing defense in the entirety of college football. This stat does not bode well against an Army team that runs the ball efficiently. The defensive line will need to step up in the interior for UMass to have a fighting chance. The good news for UMass is that the Army defense is giving up over 200 yards a game meaning Lynch-Adams should be able to find his groove. 

Clean up offensive line play in the passing game. UMass has failed to find a groove in their offensive line play. The team is allowing three sacks per game on average which is T-104 across all of college football. Creating a clean pocket for Phommachanh to find throwing lanes on Saturday will be crucial.

Phommachanh must find his groove again. This will be the sixth game started by Phommanchanh this season. Ideally, he will be able to run the ball and add another element to the UMass offense. His three starts after coming back from injury have resulted in -87 rushing yards including sacks. If he can replicate his play against New Mexico State or Toledo, UMass will be in a good position to win. 

Overall, UMass must stop Army in the run game or they will have no chance of winning. The Minutemen will be well rested following a bye week and will be able to channel that into a victory this weekend. With Army reeling after a tough loss last week, UMass can pick up their first win against Army all-time.

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