Jordan Mahoney’s pick 6 sparks UMass football’s win over Stony Brook

  • UMass cornerback Jordan Mahoney runs back an interception 94 yards for a touchdown against Stony Brook in the second quarter Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass cornerback Jordan Mahoney (7), right, intercepts a pass intended for Stony Brook receiver Shawn Harris Jr. (11), running it back 94 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass cornerback Jordan Mahoney (7), right, intercepts a pass intended for Stony Brook receiver Shawn Harris Jr. (11), running it back 94 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass fans cheer after a second quarter touchdown against Stony Brook on Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass running back Greg Desrosiers Jr. (3) evades a tackle from Stony Brook’s Randy Pringle (4) in the second quarter Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass quarterback Gino Gampiotti (5) throws downfield for a completion against Stony Brook in the first quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass quarterback Gino Gampiotti (5) looks for an open receiver against Stony Brook in the second quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather (7) rushes up the middle against Stony Brook in the second quarter Saturday afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass defensive line coach Valdamar “T” Brower during their game against Stony Brook on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass defensive line coach Valdamar “T” Brower during their game against Stony Brook on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass lines up against Stony Brook in the first quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass quarterback Gino Gampiotti (5) throws downfield for a completion against Stony Brook in the third quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass coach Don Brown after winning against Stony Brook on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass coach Don Brown celebrates after his team beat Stony Brook 20-3 on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass coach Don Brown during their game against Stony Brook on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass kicker Cameron Carson hits a 38-yard field goal against Stony Brook in the third quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass receiver Jacquon Gibson attempts to reel in a pass against Stony Brook in the third quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass cornerback Josh Wallace (12), right, brings down Stony Brook running back Jayden Cook (32) in the third quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass defensive back Noah Boykin (4) takes the legs out from under Stony Brook receiver Jackson Jones (15) in the third quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2022 8:23:22 PM

AMHERST – Jordan Mahoney snatched a Stony Brook pass out of the air in the red zone and touched a live wire to McGuirk Alumni Stadium. The UMass sophomore cornerback grabbed his first career interception and turned up field with nothing but brand new turf in front of him.

“The first thing in my head was I can’t get caught,” Mahoney said.

No Seawolves offensive player came within five yards of him as he raced up the right sideline with the assembled fans in full voice. The roar crescendoed as he crossed the goal line after a 94-yard interception return with 9 minutes, 20 seconds to halftime. The Minutemen hadn’t returned an interception for a touchdown since Isaiah Rodgers against Akron in 2019. 

“It was electric,” Mahoney said.

UMass’ defense surged in the 20-3 victory, the Minutemen’s first of the season which broke an eight-game losing streak. They held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since 2008, a shutout against Rhode Island that November.

“Isn’t that funny?” joked UMass coach Don Brown, who also coached the Minutemen in that game. “We want to do our part. I thought (Saturday) was a good measuring stick.”

The Minutemen were playing at home for the first time all season and appeared comfortable. They received the opening kickoff and went to work.

UMass scored on its opening drive for the first time all season. Merriweather converted an early fourth down with a 10-yard run from the UMass 39. UMass quarterback Gino Campiotti capped it with his first touchdown pass as a Minuteman, finding Penn State transfer Cameron Sullivan-Brown on a wheel route in the front corner of the end zone from 18 yards out. It gave UMass the lead for the first time all season with 10:03 left in the first quarter.

“That first drive was just us leaving our mark on our stadium. That's our stadium,” Sullivan-Brown said. “We wanted to establish that.”

The Minutemen (1-2) scored more points against Stony Brook (0-2) than it had all season. They posted season highs in first downs and passing yards. Campiotti took nearly every snap and accumulated 10-of-15 passes for 90 yards and ran the ball 11 times for 72 yards.

“Gino’s taken a little bit of criticism. I thought his performance was a notch above anything he has done,” Brown said.

Running back Ellis Merriweather again became the offense’s focal point after intermittent action throughout the season. He carried the ball 20 times for a team-high 76 yards. UMass only threw the ball 19 times and handed it to everyone else 21 times.

“The first two games, little bit of an enigma. Not today,” Brown said. “He showed what he’s capable of.”

Stony Brook only approached the end zone when UMass handed the Seawolves the ball practically in the red zone. UMass punter CJ Kolodziey shanked the ball 10 yards to the UMass 22 with 12:16 to halftime. He didn’t have much room to operate after UMass offensive lineman Ethan Mottinger inadvertently tackled Campiotti on a third down scramble, then fell to the turf clutching his knee. Mottinger returned to the bench later in the quarter. 

That led to Mahoney’s interception return. He led UMass with seven tackles and broke up two other passes. But Stony Brook kept testing him until he schooled the Seawolves.

“I’m involved coaching the corners, so he has to tolerate me, at times. He really has an innate ability to play the corner position at a high level. The only thing that stops him at times: himself,” Brown said. “He played the whole game the right way.”

Josh Wallace took the ball right back after UMass kicked it to the Seawolves. He dove and snatched a screen pass before it hit the turf with 8:22 to halftime.

“I was shocked,” Brown said. “That doesn’t happen every day. That was a great read on his part.”

It led to a 29-yard Cameron Carson field goal that made it 17-0 Minutemen with 2:54 to the half. That established UMass’ first three-score lead in any game since the third quarter against Akron in 2018.

Stony Brook ended the shutout with a 29-yard field goal with 30 seconds to halftime. UMass answered that with another field goal by Carson (38 yards) with 31 seconds left in the third. The teams largely exchanged punts, but Campiotti was credited for an interception that wasn’t his fault after Jacquon Gibson couldn’t haul in a great throw, and it popped right to Sony Brook defensive back Quenton Porter.

UMass receiver Rico Arnold also dropped an on-target touchdown pass two plays before the field goal.

“Now there’s something I can get on the receivers about and (offensive coordinator Steve) Casula and (wide receivers coach) Ryan Patridge about catching the ball for those guys,” Brown said. “If we make those plays down the field, we separate even more.”

Even as it stood, UMass notched its largest win since a 49-31 win over Charlotte in 2018. The fans didn’t storm the field like they did after the Minutemen’s previous win over UConn last year, but they waited by the fence encircling the field as the team sang the alma mater. Waves and hugs exchanged. Brown saw four of his 11 grandchildren as the Minutemen jogged into the locker room.

“That hit me a little bit,” he said. “This is a special place. My staff and I are doing everything possible to get UMass football where we where it belongs.”

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