Previewing The Enemy: UMass Minutemen
It’s time for Penn State’s infamous post-bye week matchup.
This week’s opponent is the UMass Minutemen, a team Penn State has only faced once and came away with a 48-7 victory at Beaver Stadium in 2014.
James Franklin’s team is 3-7 coming off the bye week. Saturday’s matchup is both Homecoming and the “Generations of Greatness” game, which is scheduled for a 3:30 kickoff. Before all of that happens, though, let’s preview the UMass squad.
UMass is 1-6 this season. The Minutemen are an independent school, and their lone win was a 41-30 victory on the road against New Mexico State in August. UMass has lost to Auburn, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, New Mexico, Arkansas State, and Toledo.
Don Brown has been the head coach of the Minutemen since November 2021 and boasts a whopping 1-17 record as the boss in Amherst. He also coached the Minutemen from 2004 to 2008, which was the winningest stretch in program history.
Steve Casula is the offensive coordinator, while Keith Dudzinski handles defensive coordinator duties. Casula and Dudzinski have both been with the program since 2021. Dudzinski has had four stints as a defensive coordinator at various schools, including Maryland in 2015.
Both Carlos Davis and Taisun Phommachanh have split time at quarterback this season. Davis has thrown for 886 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions over four games, completing 62 out of 101 pass attempts. Meanwhile, Phommachanh has 788 passing yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions while appearing in four games and completing 67 out of 102 pass attempts. The latter runs more often, with 166 rushing yards compared to Davis’ 71.
Anthony Simpson has been the quarterback duo’s top wide receiver target so far this season. Simpson has 566 receiving yards, three touchdowns, and is averaging 80.86 yards per game. In addition to Simpson, Mark Pope and George Johnson III have been frequently involved in the passing game. Pope has 272 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson has 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Other players to look out for in the passing game are Greg Desrosiers Jr., Christian Wells, and Gino Campiotti. Campiotti is the starting tight end, and he has 163 receiving yards as well as a touchdown.
Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams, a Rutgers transfer, is by far UMass’ primary rusher. Lynch-Adams has 688 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Desrosiers and Simpson rush occasionally, as the former has 113 yards over 18 attempts while the latter has 88 yards over 10 attempts. They both have one rushing touchdown.
Franklin specifically mentioned Phommachanh, Simpson, and Lynch-Adams as players who’ve impressed him within the UMass offense. Franklin said the Minutemen offense under Casula may be the most explosive team Penn State has played thus far as they’re ranked second overall in plays resulting in 50 or more yards.
Gerrell Johnson is UMass’ leading tackler with 32 total. He shares linebacker duties alongside Jerry Roberts Jr. and Tyler Martin. Roberts has 18 total tackles, one of which is for a loss, while Martin has nine total tackles and one for a loss.
Te’Rai Powell, a safety, is second with 31 total tackles while also adding two pass breakups. Joining Powell at safety is Tyler Rudolph, who has 20 total tackles, an interception, a sack, and three pass breakups.
Meanwhile, Jordan Mahoney and Isaiah Rutherford are the left and right cornerbacks, respectively. Mahoney has 17 tackles and two pass breakups, while Rutherford has five tackles, an interception, and two pass breakups. UMass’ secondary has allowed 1,624 passing yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
On the defensive line, Marcus Bradley and Louce Julien are the defensive ends, Billy Wooden and Aaron Beckwith are the defensive tackles, and Cletus Mathurin is the nose tackle. Wooden’s 4.5 sacks for a loss of 40 yards and eight tackles for loss are both team-highs, while his 28 tackles are third. He also has two quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Meanwhile, Bradley has 24 tackles, three for a loss, one sack, and one quarterback hurry.
Franklin specifically mentioned Bradley, Wooden, Mathurin, and Powell as defensive players who have stood out to him. Franklin also said he’s known Dudzinski for a long time and knows what he’s going to see from the UMass defense.
Cameron Carson is 9-for-14 on field goal attempts this season while CJ Kolodziey averages 42.07 yards per punt and has 1,220 yards so far. Additionally, Desrosiers is the primary kickoff returner while Isaac Ross catches punts.
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For the second year in a row, the Land Grant Trophy is headed back to State College.
Tickets for the event will go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, December 1.
Were the Ford Field end zones Penn State fans?