Better - not harder - test awaits RedHawks
Run game, passing improvements among Miami goals
Miami at UMass
Saturday, Sept. 9 -- 3:30 p.m. ET
Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium
By MIKE SMITH
Week One probably wasn't all that enlightening to Miami RedHawks football fans as MU was physically overmatched by a Miami Hurricanes squad brimming with transfers and elite athletes.
"It's hard to gauge (what you can and can't do) off your opener for a lot of reasons when you play a team like Miami," Head Coach Chuck Martin said Monday while reviewing his team's performance in Week One.
Week Two should be much more revealing as MU again hits the road to meet an improved UMass team.
The Minutemen have often struggled, both during their brief time in the Mid-American Conference and subsequently as an independent. UMass is still an independent, one of four such programs in NCAA Division I FBS football. Indeed, it went 1-11 last year, with three of its losses coming to MAC programs. However, there were signs of improvement, and UMass started 2023 with a 41-30 win at New Mexico State. The Minutement fell at Auburn last week, 59-14.
Miami and UMass have met on four previous occasions (all since 2012), with Miami claiming three of the four contests. This will be the first nonconference game between the two programs, as UMass left the MAC to become independent after the 2015 season. The RedHawks are 1-1 all-time in Amherst.
Chuck Martin earned his first win as Miami head coach when the RedHawks erased a 27-point second-half deficit to stun UMass 42-41 on October 4, 2014. The Minutemen drove the ball to the Miami six-yard line in the final seconds, but Joe Donlan made a
tackle as time ran out to secure the victory for the Red and White. Andrew Hendrix finished the day with 528 all-purpose yards, the second-highest single-game total in program history. Sam Martin caught four touchdown passes, matching the team (and stadium) record.
Miami won the last meeting (2015), rallying from a 6-3 halftime deficit to post a 20-13 victory.
-- Don Brown returned to the University of Massachusetts football program for his second stint as head coach on November 22, 2021. Brown, who led the Minutemen to the winningest five-year stretch in program history from 2004 to 2008, is known for his aggressive and blitz-heavy attack on defense and has nearly 46 years of coaching experience to his credit.
-- Massachusetts is 6-0 in home openers under Brown. Last season, the Minutemen posted a 20-3 victory over
Stony Brook in Brown’s return to McGuirk Alumni Stadium. During Brown's previous tenure as head coach at UMass, the Minutemen went 5-0 in home openers.
-- The Minutemen added four quarterbacks in the offseason, including redshirt senior transfer Carlos Davis from Western Carolina, redshirt junior transfer Taisun Phommachanh from Georgia Tech/Clemson, freshman Ahmad Haston and walk-on freshman Conner Whitson.
-- UMass trailed Auburn 10-7 after one quarter last week, but the Tigers pulled away with 21 unanswered points in both the second and third stanzas. Both teams added a touchdown in the final period.
-- Phommachanh was 8-for-16 (106 yards, 1 interception) through the air against Auburn, while also running for 34 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt senior Carlos Davis came in the game in the second half, finishing six-for-eight for 106 yards and a touchdown.
-- "They've got a really good quarterback from Georgia Tech who can make big plays with his arm (and) can make big plays with his legs. He's a big, strong, athletic runner," Martin said of the 6-4, 215-pound Phommachanh.
-- Among the UMass receivers is Arizona transfer Anthony Simpson (5-11, 180, JR). He had four catches for a total of 89 yards and a 58-yard TD against Auburn.
-- Kay'Ron Lynch-Adams paced UMass rushing against Auburn, logging 14 carries for 101 yards (7.2 ypc).
-- Martin noted the Minutemen use a lot of pre-snap motion to set up advantageous matchups/situations.
-- Looking back to the UMass' opener, Martin said, "They got after New Mexico State pretty good (and) caused (three) turnovers. He added that the defensive unit has improved in its second year with the system and addition of some transfers. "They are a pretty fast, twitchy, physical group on defense that is really impressive and brings a lot of pressure from a lot of different places. It will be a good challenge for us offensively."
-- Seeing the first significant action of his career, Alec Bevelhimer averaged 45.2 yards per punt in the loss to Miami (FL). He had a pair of punts that traveled over 50 yards, including a career long 62-yard punt and downed two other kicks inside the Hurricane's 20-yard line.
-- The RedHawks registered just 215 yards of offense and converted just 2-of-12 third downs against Miami (FL) last week They were 0-for-3 on fourth down. "Offensively, (there were) too many times we did not execute to the level we are capable (of) and make them earn it," Martin said. "They've got some good players, but we've got to run the ball better."
-- MU was outgained on the ground 251-51, with the RedHawks averaging just 2.0 ypc. That benefitted from some second half runs, but it was no where near enough to offset a Hurricane's offense that punted just once after intermission.
-- Rashad Amos, a 6-2, 234-pound RB formerly with South Carolina, led MU with dight carries for 30 yards (long of 23). Jordan Brunson (6-0, 226, SO) had two carries totaling 22 yards.
-- Junior quarterback Brett Gabbert was back at the helm after missing most of 2022. He completed 12-of-21 passes for a total of 127 yards. Aveon Smith saw late action, connecting on 1-of-3, with the completion covering 37 yards to Cade McDonald.
-- Only two RedHawks caught more than one pass. Gage Larvadain, a 5-10, 165-pound transfer from Southeastern Louisiana, was by far the most productive. He caught eight balls totaling 80 yards.
"Our passing game was just not very good," Martin said. "It was a product of ... everybody."
-- Martin is expecting UMass to play a lot of man-to-man coverage (similar to the Hurricanes) and bring pressure. "It will be a challenge for us," he said.
-- Asked about the team's health, Martin noted the squad took a pounding and could use the extra day gained by playing the opener on a Friday. Some players may still be a game-day decision. One player who won't be back is tight end Jack Coldiron, who suffered a possible season-ending injury at Miami.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.