UMass will try to contain Georgia Southern’s option attack in a matchup of winless teams

  • UMass running back Marquis Young, right, is pushing out of bounds by Ohio’s Javon Hagan, Sept. 30 at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst. UMass returns to the field after a two-week break Saturday when it hosts Georgia Southern. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

Published: 10/20/2017 6:47:58 PM

AMHERST — UMass didn’t plan it this way. The bye week was supposed to be before an Oct. 14 game against South Florida, but when that game got cancelled, the Minutemen ended up with a double bye leading up to Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern.

In addition to all of the obvious benefits the extended break provided for the team’s health, it also allowed UMass extra time to prepare for the Eagles’ option offense, a system the Minutemen have seen just once this year — at Coastal Carolina — and didn’t fare well against.

“We had some walk-throughs to give the scout team an idea (of how to run it),” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “They’ve done a good job.”

Senior defensive end Da’Sean Downey said the key is not breaking down.

“It gave us extra time to zone in. We saw Coastal Carolina, which got us kind of prepared, but Georgia Southern is a lot more athletic,” he said. “Having a couple extra weeks helps us a lot. It’s about discipline, staying in your gaps and staying focused.”

Junior linebacker Jarell Addo said slowing Southern on first and second down was critical.

“Make them throw the ball and we’ll be in good shape,” he said.

Time & location: 3:30 p.m. McGuirk Stadium

Records: Georgia Southern is 0-5; UMass is 0-6.

Last week: UMass had a bye; GSU lost to New Mexico State, 35-27.

All-time series: 1-1

TV/Internet: NESNplus

Radio: 105.5 FM

When Georgia Southern has the ball: Quarterback Shai Werts is Southern’s leading rusher with 318 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. He’s attempted just 71 passes with 37 completions for 463 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

He’s questionable to play after leaving last week’s loss to New Mexico State with an unknown ailment.

Junior running back Wesley Fields has 292 yards on 73 carries and two touchdowns. No receiver has more than eight catches.

When UMass has the ball: Quarterback Andrew Ford wasn’t available after either Wednesday’s or Thursday’s practice, which means he’s dealing with an injury of unknown severity. Whipple said he expected everyone to play, but it’s possible that Ford could miss the game or be less than 100 percent. Adam Breneman said his balky ankle is back at 100 percent after the long layoff. It’ll be interesting to see if Minutemen return him to his heavy target load.

The Eagles’ defense has struggled all season, allowing an average of 429.6 yards per game. Opponents have converted 43.1 percent of third downs, compared to GSU’s 21.33 percentage.

Opponents have scored 38.6 points per game. Senior linebacker Chris DeLaRosa leads the Eagles with 26 tackles.

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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