The Minutemen force three takeaways
The Massachusetts football team followed a similar script on Saturday afternoon that they followed all season: the defense gave the offense every chance to get back into the game. After a shootout loss to Arkansas State last Saturday, the Minutemen (1-10) returned to their defensive roots in their 20-3 loss to Texas A&M.
The Aggies (4-7) opened the game as 32.5 favorites (originally 34 favorites), although they haven’t scored more than 30 points this season since their opener against FCS Sam Houston, where they scored 31 points in a shutout. The Massachusetts defense ensured Texas A&M wouldn’t hit the heights it was meant to, allowing 20 points despite the opposition’s 404 total yards.
This number is a bit inflated; explosive plays here and there from the Aggies’ offense don’t do the UMass defense justice. The Minutemen continually stuffed the run, and when Texas A&M went on the air attack, it led to freshman quarterback Connor Weigman rushing for big yardage on a missed play. This is similar to the Minutemen’s game against UConn where a 75-yard run skewed the perception of their run defense.
“As soon as we hit College Station and could see the stadium out back, the guys got a little excited,” head coach Don Brown said. “Obviously I thought we showed up and played hard. Really hard.”
The real area where UMass excelled on the defensive end of the ball on Saturday was their ability to force and recover fumbles. On a rainy day at Kyle Field, the Minutemen forced four fumbles and recovered all three.
The takeaway has been a big part of UMass’ defensive identity all season, with nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Davis, Rudolph and Jordan Mahoney lead the way with two forced fumbles each. There could have been even more fumble recoveries, but penalties or referees whistling the game dead brought up potential takeaways.
“The first thing I look at, obviously, we had the three fumble recoveries and I felt we had five,” Brown said. “The effort, the energy, the work ethic and the way the guys work, I couldn’t be happier. [Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher] not going to be happy with fumbles on the ground.
All four forced fumbles occurred deep in Minutemen territory, the closest being Massachusetts 11. The Aggies were farthest from the end zone when the ball went out was Massachusetts 31, which would have been a great position. on the field to score. .
Even if two of Aggie’s three drives ended in field goals, it would have been a 23-point game instead of a 17-point game. By forcing the takeout, the Minutemen gave themselves a fighting chance in a game where they needed to be eliminated. Without Saturday’s forced fumbles, this game might have looked a lot like UMass’ second game of the season against Toledo, when it allowed 55 points. The Minutemen forced a fumble in that game but did not recover it.
UMass and its defense are gearing up for the final game of the season against Army on Saturday, November 26. Kick-off is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.