UMass notebook: Brady Olson sticking to his process preparing for 3rd start

  • UMass quarterback Brady Olson delivers a pass during the Minutemen’s loss to Eastern Michigan on Saturday in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2021 8:03:34 PM

Brady Olson hasn’t let starting the past two UMass football games go to his head.

The freshman from Milford is following the same process he used Week 1 as a backup and ahead of the past two games. That’s helped him acclimate to the college level after facing high school defenses just five months ago.

“The speed of the game, it has definitely picked up from high school to college. But if you do what you’re supposed to do and listen to coaching, it’s not that hard when you get out there,” Olson said.

Being more familiar with the playbook has helped him feel more comfortable.

“It’s starting to click in my mind where my eyes are supposed to be going and my role in each and every play,” Olson said.

Olson improved from his first start and between halves in both games. His completion percentage jumped from 48.3 percent against Boston College to 57.9 on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. He also threw just one interception (that bounced off a receiver’s chest so not entirely his fault) against the second set of Eagles after throwing the ball to the Eagles from Chestnut Hill twice.

“We knew he was going to be a really good player. That’s why we recruited him as hard as we did. The thing he’s done really well as a freshman is his ability to overcome mistakes and execution errors early in the football game. Last week he missed a couple open throws that had a chance to be explosive,” Bell said.

Olson followed those first-half misses with multiple completions over 20 yards in the second half.

“He’s even keeled, nice and easy, doesn’t let a couple mistakes rattle him,” Bell said. “To be that young and still 18 years old and be as even keeled and still handle mistakes and adversity as well as he does, that’s going to be a huge thing going forward.”

Being surrounded by experienced skill position players has helped Olson’s transition. Junior running back Ellis Merriweather gives him a reliable ground game to lean on, and nearly every receiver has previous collegiate snaps either at UMass or elsewhere.

“There are some veteran guys out there who help me along and teach me the game in practice,” Olson said. “On the field if not everything’s going my way I can definitely count on them to pick me up or make a play or two if I need it.”

INJURY UPDATE – Defensive linemen Taishan Holmes and Xavier Gonsavles will likely be out for Saturday’s game at Coastal Carolina (1 p.m. kickoff), along with offensive lineman Brian Parish, Bell said.

Linebacker Drew Harvey could be out with a shoulder injury, and Zack Magdis is done for the year.

Tight end Josiah Johnson, who scored two touchdowns against Eastern Michigan, also hurt himself. His status remained unclear Tuesday.

“Other than that, we’re pretty healthy,” Bell said.

UMass faced the Eagles down nine presumptive starters, most of them concentrated on the defensive line.

SUPER SUB – Freshman walk-on Carter Scudo flashed late in Saturday’s loss, scoring a touchdown and accumulating 29 yards rushing and 17 yards receiving.

“By happenstance, Carter got an opportunity well before he expected to. When we started to lose some depth at tailback going all the way back to the spring, we knew we had to add some depth there. Carter was the best available athlete who had played running back,” Bell said. “He did a great job, has made the most of his opportunity and he’ll be a contributor here the next four years in a multitude of roles. He continues to work hard and earn his way every single day.”

Olson watched that transition for his former high school teammate. The pair played one year together at Milford for Olson’s uncles Dana and Dale Olson (he started his career at Bishop Feehan) and are roommates at UMass.

“He is a guy who can switch in an instant and learn a position and excel at it. He’s done a great job of accepting that role at running back and really opening coach’s eyes,” Olson said.

INDEFENSIBLE – The Minutemen are tied for the second-worst scoring defense in the nation with UConn, allowing 46 points per game. Only Rice (46.7) has given up more.

Pair that with the country’s 11th worst rushing defense (220.3 yards per game). UMass opponents gain 5.3 yards per rush, also in the bottom 20.

“The game comes down to blocking and tackling, and it has as long as the game’s been played,” Bell said. “In order to tackle well, you have to fit a block well, you have to destroy blocks, you have to get people on the ground. You have to tackle with violent intentions.”

Eastern Michigan also popped two 40-plus yard pass plays on a similar route concept: mesh cuts with a dagger in between them. The mesh concept has receivers running shallow crossing routes on opposite sides of the field, where the dagger is a vertical route in the middle.

Zach Westmoreland ran two carbon copy routes, setting up Eastern Michigan’s first touchdown with a 43-yard catch and run and scoring a 54-yard touchdown with 4 minutes, 7 seconds left to ice the game.

“We didn’t squeeze the dig from the corner to the safety. They didn’t handle that exchange well,” Bell said. “We talked about it on the sideline after the first one and then we didn’t execute it on third down to basically seal the game.”

MISERY BUSINESS – UMass has lost 14 games in a row, the second-longest losing streak in the country behind Arizona’s 15 game skid.

That fact does not sit well with the Minutemen.

“Losing is miserable, brother. Nobody feels good about what’s going on. When you dedicated as much of your life and as much of your time to as you do to this, when you dedicate your life to scoreboard it’s never fun losing,” Bell said. “But you’ve got to get back on the horse. The sun came up today, so it’s time to go to work.”

But the players aren’t dwelling on previous defeats.

“We try to put last week’s game behind us and get ready for a big opponent. We’re staying together,” senior defensive lineman Avien Peah said. “We want to come out there and prove we can be a better defense than we’ve shown. It’s still early in the season. It’s college football, a lot of things can happen. We know when we play our type of defense we can be a very good defense. We’re doing our best every single day to turn this thing around.”

MARK YOUR CALENDARS – The Atlantic 10 released its women’s basketball schedule Tuesday.

UMass will open the 16-game slate with George Mason on New Year’s Day. La Salle, Dayton, Rhode Island, Saint Louis, Duquesne, Fordham, and VCU will visit the Mullins Center.

The Minutewomen will travel to George Washington, Saint Joseph's, St. Bonaventure, Davidson, Rhode Island, VCU, Richmond and Saint Louis.

The 2022 A-10 Championship is March 2-6 at a single site to be determined.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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