Ellis Merriweather cracks 1,000 yards, UMass football ends season with loss at New Mexico State

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather, shown earlier this season, became the first Minuteman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season during UMass’ FBS era Saturday in a 44-27 loss at New Mexico State. CHRIS TUCCI/UMass Athletics

Published: 11/27/2021 7:13:41 PM

A slow start and a fizzled finish ended the UMass football season Saturday, as the Minutemen fell 44-27 to New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M.

The Aggies jumped to a 14-0 lead 2 minutes, 20 seconds into the second quarter on two Juwan Price touchdown runs. He finished with four scores and 156 yards on the ground, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

It gave New Mexico State (2-10) a dangerous amount of balance, as quarterback Jonah Johnson threw for 420 yards and two touchdowns.

“Teams that can throw the ball and mix it up give us a little bit of trouble,” UMass interim head coach Alex Miller said. “But those kids played hard. You wish you had another week to build off of the effort. But it comes to an end.”

The Minutemen (1-11) played an even second and third quarters, tying New Mexico State 27-27, but the Aggies scored the game’s final 10 points to pull away. Ethan Anderson nailed a 50-yard field goal to make it 37-27 with 12:10 left, and Johnson found Thomas Whitford for a five-yard touchdown to seal it with 7:04 on the clock.

In between, UMass found its footing. Jared Chisari scored a 30-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-6. The Minutemen just couldn’t get New Mexico State off the field and score unanswered points.

Running back Ellis Merriweather carried the load for UMass once again. He amassed 168 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder that made it 34-27 with 2:01 left in the third. Along the way he became UMass’ first 1,000-yard rusher in its FBS history. He also led the Minutemen with four receptions.

Merriweather didn’t fumble the ball once in 218 carries this season.

Garrett Dzuro completed 12-of-23 passes for 124 yards and a 73-yard touchdown to Rico Arnold that made it 27-20 just 90 seconds into the second half.

The Minutemen didn’t turn the ball over but only forced two New Mexico State punts. The Aggies scored touchdowns on six of their 11 drives, and two of those ended with halftime and the final buzzer.

New Mexico State converted 53.8 percent of its third downs and both fourth down attempts. The Aggies averaged 8.8 yards per play and amassed 30 first downs.

Uchenna Ezewike had 1.5 sacks for UMass.

The Minutemen ended the season on a five-game losing streak.

UMass announced Arizona defensive coordinator Don Brown as its next coach a week ago. He’ll take over a program that has two wins the past three seasons. The Wildcats fell against Arizona State in their season finale Saturday.

“We’ve just got to figure it out with Coach Brown and go from there,” Miller said.

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