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Minutemen Pick Up Historic Win Over Aggies 41-30

by Kevin McCaskill Jr.

8/28/23 * 10:30 AM



(LAS CRUCES, NM via SPRINGFIELD, MA) -


The 2023 FBS 🏈 season started on Saturday. The UMass Minutemen were on the road to take on New Mexico St., a team that beat the Minutemen last season. The 1st game of the year for UMass was the primetime (7 PM) game on ESPN. UMass had the eyes of the college football world on them; they didn’t disappoint.


The Minutemen came into their opener with a record of 2-26 over the last 3 seasons. The biggest storyline of the offseason was who would replace Brady Olson at QB: transfer Taisun Phommachanh or transfer Carlos Davis. To have any success at the FBS level, the Minutemen needed to solidify the most important position on the field.


Phommachanh was named the starter early last week.


On the first offensive series of the season, the Minutemen went 3 and out: Phommachanh ran on 1st down; Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams gained a couple yards on 2nd down; on 3rd down, Phommachanh threw a pass that was tipped at the line-of-scrimmage and fell incomplete.


The Minutemen defense made an impact immediately. New Mexico St. came out for their 1st offensive possession. The Aggies QB Diego Pavia threw a pass that was deflected and then intercepted by DB Michael Oppong.


UMass got the ball back after the turnover. Phommachanh ran the ball once and completed a pass to WR Anthony Simpson. On the next play, Simpson came in motion from the left side of the formation to the right. Phommachanh got the snap, handed it back to Simpson and Simpson ran 10 yards into the end-zone for the Minutemen’s first TD of the season. UMass led 7-0.


(FPM coverage of UMass @ Nex Mexico St. was sponsored by Pokémoto Northampton, located at 18 Main St. in downtown Northampton)


Both teams traded punts for the remainder of the 1st quarter.


In the second quarter, Pavia was benched for a short time and Eli Stowers came in at QB. Stowers ran for 5 yards on his first carry. On the next play, Stowers handed the ball off to RB Monte Watkins and he broke through the Minutemen defense untouched for an 80 yard run TD. That TD tied the game at 7.


The teams exchanged FGs and went to halftime tied @ 10.


In the 3rd quarter, UMass put together another scoring drive but the score was another FG. Phommachanh drove the team down the field but got stopped in the red-zone again. K Cameron Carson made a 29 yard FG for his 2nd FG of the game.


New Mexico St. missed a FG attempt on their next possession.


Before the start of the 4th qt., the sideline reporter for ESPN interviewed UMass HC Don Brown. He said the Minutemen were playing well but had to “finish” their drives with TDs.


(UMass HC Don Brown after the Spring Game in April '23)


On the first play of the 4th qt., Phommachanh threw a dart to Christian Wells. Wells caught the ball, bounced off two potential tacklers and ran down the field until he was tackled. The play accounted for 68 yards. On the next play, Phommachanh faked to the RB and rolled out of the pocket to his right. He didn’t see any receivers but he saw an open lane to run into the end-zone. Phommachanh scored on an 11 yard run. The extra point put UMass on top 20-10.


New Mexico St. answered quickly - one minute of game-time - with a 42 yard TD pass from Pavia to WR Trent Hudson. After the extra point, UMass only led by 3, 20-17.


In previous seasons, UMass would have buckled or folded. This season, Phommachanh and crew stepped up and engineered another TD drive to answer the quick TD by the Aggies. The Minutemen were faced with a 4th & 7 situation. They were at the 31 yard-line which would have been a long FG for Carson and too short a distance to get off an effective punt. Brown and OC Steve Casula decided to go for it on 4th down. Phommachanh avoided the Aggies rush and scrambled for 26 yards! One of the biggest plays in recent UMass history made by a young man that hadn’t started a game in 4 years. Lynch-Adams finished off the drive with a 10 yard run. The Minutemen were up 27-17.


UMass fully shifted the momentum completely with an INT return for a TD by DB Isaiah Rutherford. He picked off Pavia and ran 55 yards the other way for the score. UMass led 34-17.


New Mexico responded again with another quick TD drive. Pavia threw a nice deep ball to Jordin Parker for a 40 yard score. That TD brought the Aggies within 10, 34-24.


New Mexico St. had one more opportunity to cut the lead. On the 4th play of their 2nd to last drive, Pavia dropped back to pass. He was strip-sacked by DE Zukudo Igwenagu. DT Billy Wooden recovered the fumble, which put UMass in great scoring position. In two plays, Lynch-Adams sealed the game with another run TD, this time for 21 yards.


(FPM coverage of UMass @ Nex Mexico St. was sponsored by Pokémoto Northampton, located at 18 Main St. in downtown Northampton)


Pavia hit Hudson again for another TD has the clock ran out.


UMass beat New Mexico St., on the road[!], 41-30. The victory gave UMass their 1st season opening win over an FBS opponent since 1984.


UMass (1-0) is on the road next week @ Auburn.



Stats:


UMass


T. Phommachanh - 10/17 192 yds; 17 car, 96 yds, 1 TD


K. Lynch-Adams - 15 car, 79 yds, 2 TDs


A. Simpson - 3 rec, 65 yds; 2 car, 27 yds, 1 TD


I. Rutherford - INT return TD


C. Carson - 2/2 FG


T. Rudolph - 8 tackles, 1 sack




New Mexico St.


D. Pavia - 16/27 248 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT; 14 car, 20 yds


M. Watkins - 2 car, 95 yds, 1 TD


T. Hudson - 2 rec, 43 yds, 2 TD




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