Offense lets defense down in UMass football’s 45-7 loss to Toledo

  • UMass coach Walt Bell on the sidleines in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 45-7 loss to Toledo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMass’ Da'shon Ross brings down Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn for a sack in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 45-7-7 loss to Toledo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMass quarterback Brady Olson step u pin the pocked looking to pass against Toledo in the first half Saturday at McGurik Alumin Stadium in Amherst. COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMass running back Kay'ron Adams carriesthe ball up the field past Toledo’s Samuel Womack in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 45-7 loss to Toledo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS—

  • UMass running back Kay'ron Adams carries the ball up the middle as Toledo’s D'andre Ragin moves in for the tackle in the first quarter of the Minutemen’s 45-7 loss to Toledo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMas’ Billy Wooden, wraps up Toledo quarterback Carter Bradley for a sack in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 45-7 loss to Toledo on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.  COURTESY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Published: 10/2/2021 4:31:22 PM

AMHERST — After a maligned start to the season, the UMass football team’s defense gave the Minutemen a chance Saturday against Toledo.

That is, until the offense put it in too many impossible situations to recover from, as the Rockets won 45-7 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

UMass turned the ball over three times on offense (two interceptions, one fumble) and gave away another possession on a missed punt. Toledo turned those miscues into 28 points.

“We’ve got to help those guys out. So many times we put them right back on the field. Offensively we did not help our defense out, we did not play very complementary football,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “Ultimately as the head football coach and offensive coordinator, that’s on me. My job is to have these guys prepared to play football, and I didn’t do a good job doing that.”

Toledo held the ball for 34 minutes, 55 seconds compared to just 25:05 for the Minutemen. The Rockets ran 73 offensive plays compared to UMass’ 51.

“With how many snaps those guys had to play because we were poor on third down on offense, I thought that was a valiant effort from those guys,” Bell said of his defense.

UMass (0-5) lost for the 16th consecutive game, tying Arizona for the nation’s longest active streak. The Wildcats are off this week.

For once this season, the Minutemen showed promise on defense early. They forced a turnover on downs on Toledo’s first offensive possession and a punt on its second. The Rockets didn’t light the scoreboard for the game’s first 9 minutes, 13 seconds, the second-longest span UMass has kept an opponent out of the end zone to open a game this season.

Toledo only converted one of its first six third down attempts in the first half. The Rockets finished 7-of-15 on third down for the game.

“We put those guys in a bunch of short fields. But when our defense had grass behind them, they played good defense,” Bell said. “That’s a step in the right direction.”

Toledo extended its lead to 10-0 on a 29-yard field goal with 10:17 to halftime, then the Rockets scored 21 points in just under four minutes late in the first half to put the game away.

The UMass defense held Toledo to a 39-yard field goal miss with 4:54 to halftime. Trailing just 10-0, the Minuteman had an opportunity to make it a one-score game before the half and receive the second-half kickoff.

UMass quarterback Brady Olson completed a 21-yard screen pass to running back Kay’Ron Adams to open the drive, then the Minutemen tried to strike quick on a play action pass shortly after the ball was spotted. Olson never saw Toledo safety Nate Bauer shadowing a slant route, and Bauer jumped it, returning the interception to the UMass 5.

Rockets running back Bryant Koback capitalized the next play on a five-yard touchdown run that made it 17-0 with 4:16 to halftime. 

UMass then went three and out, and Koback scored on an 18-yard run that pushed Toledo’s lead to 24-0.

Garrett Dzuro replaced Olson, the true freshman QB, with 1:25 remaining in the first half and threw an interception to Dyonta Johnson on his first attempt. Olson returned to start the third quarter.

“Brady had a couple critical errors. More than anything else (we ere) trying to get him to relax,” Bell said. “In his situation as a young guy, I think the most important thing that you don’t do is you don’t let it pile on, you don’t make it worse than it is.”

Toledo’s Carter Bradley threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Drew Rosi on the next play with 49 seconds to halftime to take a 31-0 lead to the break. The Rockets exploited three UMass turnovers in the first half to score 21 points on the following offensive plays.

UMass’ offense didn’t reach positive territory until an 11-yard completion to Onuma Dieke five minutes into the second quarter. 

“Early in the football game we set out to run the football, and we didn’t run the football successfully,” Bell said. “We didn’t move the ball early enough to take the pressure off Brady, and Brady got put in some really hard situations.”

Eric Collins gave the Minutemen their best starting field position of the day when he picked up a bouncing punt and returned it 33 yards to the Toledo 44.

UMass promptly loss 14 yards on a failed flea flicker, then a false start pushed them back even further before an eventual punt.

After consecutive UMass defensive stops to open the game, the Minutemen couldn’t block a free blitzer. Jonathan Jones sacked Olson, who fumbled the ball right into his hands. 

The Rockets capitalized on the next play, as Dequan Finn ran 34 yards up the left sideline after a zone read to score the game’s first touchdown with 5:38 left in the first.

In the second half, Finn threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Mitchell with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter. That followed a muffed punt that Collins called a fair catch on but couldn’t corral, losing the ball as he dove for it. Toledo jumped on the loose ball and scored five plays later.

Toledo running back Micah Kelly plunged in from six yards out to make it 45-0 with 11:54 remaining. The Rockets set that up with a 55-yard pass to Isaiah Winstead where the receiver fought off pass interference at the catch point and dragged two UMass defenders another few yards.

UMass’ Jermaine “OC” Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the UMass 39, hurdling a defender on the way. Two plays later, Olson found Rico Arnold for 39 yards down the left sideline to the Toledo 20. Olson ended the shutout with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Taylor Edwards with 9:31 remaining. It was the first touchdown the Rockets allowed in 11 quarters.

“(Olson)’s unbelievable at handling adversity,” Bell said. “He does a great job when he makes a mistake, he lets it roll of his back.”

Bell turned to freshman Zamar Wise with 5:27 left, and the freshman completed his first career pass to Arnold for five yards and a first down.

UMass has given up at least 40 points in each game this season and lost by an average of 32.6 points per game.

“Our kids are devastated. They’ve had an unbelievable week of practice this week, it’s really evident by how certain aspects of our team played. Our defense came to play,” Bell said. “Every time that we ask our kids to get back on the horse, they answer the bell. That’s what’s so special about this group, they’ve been though an unbelievable adversity. This is an unbelievably tough group, an unbelievably resilient group.”

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