by Kevin McCaskill Jr.
11/7/23 * 3:48 PM
(AMHERST, MA) - Last Saturday was Homecoming Weekend @ UMass-Amherst. The marquee sporting event for the weekend was the football matchup: the Warriors from Merrimack College traveled west to take on the UMass Minutemen. Saturday afternoon was the 1st matchup between UMass and Merrimack.
The Warriors came out on their first offensive possession and punted. Their second possession, they engineered a TD drive to get on the scoreboard first. Merrimack QB Malaki Anthony found WR Jalen McDonald for a 32 yard completion. Anthony did the rest himself and ran for a 5 yard TD.
An FCS program marching down the field and scoring quickly on the second possession of the game wasn’t the ideal start to Homecoming Weekend.
The Minutemen regrouped and commandeered their own TD drive led by starting QB Taisun Phommachanh. He completed two passes - one to WR Anthony Simpson for 13 yards, the other to WR George Johnson III for 25 yards - that got the Minutemen just outside the redzone. Two runs by RB Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams and Simpson got a first down. On the next play, Phommachanh found Johnson for an 11 yard pass TD. The EP kick was good. The game was tied @ 7.
Both teams struggled on offense after that TD. They traded punts. Neither team had an offensive rhythm.
Late in the 2nd quarter, the Minutemen engineered another drive that ended in a score. Lynch-Adams did the heavy lifting and gained 34 yards on the drive. He had been bottled up most of the day by the Merrimack front-7. When the Minutemen were in the redzone, RB Greg Desrosiers Jr. scored his first of 3 TDs, an 8 yard run. The EP kick was good. UMass led 14-7.
Merrimack K Lliam Davis missed a 39 yard FG before halftime.
Despite another slow start, UMass led at halftime 14-7.
The offensive struggles continued for both teams in the 3rd quarter. Phommachanh was out of rhythm and the Merrimack defense was slowing down one of the nation’s top RB.
The Minutemen broke the scoring drought with a 39 yard FG by K Cameron Carson. They led 17-7.
UMass defense stopped Merrimack, which gave the ball back to the offense. Desrosiers scored his second TD on a 57 yard run where he was barely touched. The EP kick split the uprights and UMass led 24-7.
On the Minutemen’s next offensive possession, Lynch-Adams passed the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season. He is the 2nd UMass player in the FBS-era to cross that mark. The 1st was Ellis Merriweather.
Desrosiers broke his 2nd long TD of the game and 3rd overall with a 46 yard run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Merrimack WR Donovan Wadley returned the kick 95 yards for a TD. Wadley has 3 kick return TDs this season. The EP kick was good. The Warriors inched closer 31-14. Special teams has been an issue for the Minutemen all season, especially kick coverage return.
UMass punted on their next possession, which gave the Warriors hope. The Warriors drove down the field, close to the redzone. Anthony passed the ball backwards to WR Jelani Mason. Mason found WR LJ Robinson running down the field wide open for a 33 yard TD. The Warriors only went for 1, so the score was now 31-21.
Merrimack attempted an onsides kick. The kick was recovered by UMass. Another Desrosiers run for 28 yards sealed the game.
The Minutemen beat Merrimack 31-21, winning their second consecutive game.
After the game, HC Don Brown said,
“I had a lot of people reach out to me, ‘Ahh, ya know, you better watch out for complacency’. That was NOT an issue all week. The guys just came in, got ready to play and went out and played what I thought was a solid game”.
“I felt good prior to this that we were going in the right direction. Now you have got some credible criteria where you can say, ‘Alright, we’re goin in the right direction’. But i do think we are going in the right direction…I’m not unhappy we have a bye”.
Greg Desrosiers Jr. said “Regardless of the competition, we were looking to dominate.
The Minutemen have another bye this week. Their next game is on the road @ Liberty, November 18th. Kickoff is @ 1 PM, on ESPN+.