UMass football: More of the same as Minutemen thumped by Arkansas State, 52-28

  • UMass quarterback Taisun Phommachanh looks to flip the ball to a teammate during the Minutemen’s 52-28 loss to Arkansas State on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 9/30/2023 9:59:55 PM
Modified: 9/30/2023 9:58:57 PM

AMHERST — The tides finally seemed poised to shift the UMass football team’s way on Saturday. 

The Minutemen were two-point favorites over Arkansas State, and even better, starting quarterback Taisun Phommachanh was slated to return to the lineup for the first time since an injury sidelined him Sept. 2.

Surely, this would be the day that UMass could get back in the win column. 

But any good vibes that swept through the home crowd at the return of Phommachanh evaporated when the quarterback threw an interception on his third play of the day to Arkansas State’s Khmari Thompson, who ran it back 25 yards before he was pushed out of bounds. 

That interception was a precursor of what was to come – the Red Wolves obliterated the Minutemen 52-28, scoring 31 points on the home team in the first half alone.

“We had an honest discussion in the locker room, and we've got a long way to go,” UMass head coach Don Brown said after the loss. 

Though Phommachanh was back in action all game for the Minutemen, he didn’t seem to be fully healthy. Brown limited Phommachanh almost entirely to passing plays or handoffs; the quarterback finished the game with just six rushing attempts for a net loss of 35 yards. In his first and only appearance prior to the game against Arkansas State, Phommachanh rushed for 96 yards on 17 attempts in a win against New Mexico State. 

“(His) first game back, let's get him back going, but (we) also wanted to protect him a little bit. And so we really called no quarterback runs for him. He ended up in a couple situations, which is fine,” Brown said. “We were trying to put our best foot forward in terms of taking care of him.”

Brown wouldn’t elaborate on how close to 100 percent Phommachanh was, commenting “I really don't want to do that” when asked to give a percentage of where the quarterback was at health-wise. He did say Phommachanh would be available again.

The hits kept coming for UMass when cornerback Jordan Mahoney went down with an injury after breaking up a pass in the end zone. Mahoney was down on the field for several minutes while trainers checked him out, and was eventually stretchered off the field with nine minutes, 30 seconds left in the second half. Brown didn’t have an immediate update on Mahoney’s status postgame.

“I blink my eyes there and we basically had both starting corners out,” Brown said. “The next 48 hours are try to get them back to work. And safety-wise, we were down one safety going in, basically three of the four starting DBs were unavailable when we got going, but hey, that's part of it. You can't cry about it. You just keep plugging.”

Arkansas State freshman quarterback Jaylen Raynor was electric for the visitors. In just his second start, the QB threw six touchdown passes, completing 20 of 25 pass attempts for 383 yards. His six TD passes tied an Arkansas State school record.

The slow starts that have plagued the Minutemen all season were back in full force on Saturday.

The lone bright spot in the first half for the home team was a career-best 60 yard rush for Greg Desrosiers Jr. just 12 seconds into the second quarter, a massive energy boost for a team that desperately needed one. That cut the deficit to 17-7, but Arkansas State answered almost immediately with another TD 77 seconds later to go up 24-7. 

Desrosiers was one of the highlights for UMass, drawing high praise from Brown after the contest. He finished with two touchdowns, scoring again on a five-yard throw from Phommachanh near the end of the third quarter. 

“That's the best game he's played since he's been here,” Brown said. “He's really grown. He’s very different from (running back) Kay’Ron (Lynch-Adams), because Kay’Ron is more of a between the tackles guy, where Greg can get on the perimeter and run the long zone, he can run the slash play, he can get out in the perimeter and go around you. We saw him do all those things tonight.”

Cameron Carson kicked two field goals for the Minutemen, one in the second quarter and another in the third frame. Lynch-Adams scored the final touchdown for the home team in the fourth quarter, a two-yard run with just under five minutes left. 

UMass will play its final contest in a three-game home stand against Toledo on Oct. 7 at noon (ESPNU).

Hannah Bevis can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.


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