UMass 31, Merrimack 21 – Minutemen win consecutive games for first time in 5 years

By Ryan Barry
NEFJ Correspondent

AMHERST – A beautiful fall day on Saturday for homecoming weekend at UMass provided the backdrop for the Minutemen to pick up a second consecutive win for the first time since 2018.

UMass took care of business 31-21 against FCS opponent Merrimack, improving to 3-7 on the year.

“Guys just came in, got ready to play and went out and played I thought, a solid game,” Don Brown said postgame, speaking specifically to any concern those outside the program may have had regarding complacency after the Army win last week. “There’s things that happened in the game that you’re not happy about…but, a lot of good stuff. Complementary football.”

After a slow slog through three quarters, the fans got their money’s worth in the fourth with 28 combined points scored.

The UMass run game came to play in front of the 14,000 fans in attendance. Running back Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams (23 carries, 88 yards) officially passed the 1,000 yard mark on the season and is now just the second UMass rusher in the FBS era to eclipse that mark along with Ellis Merriweather.

UMass back Greg Desroisiers Jr. (10 carries, 162 yards, 3 TDs) had a career day in both yards and touchdowns. The Lawrence, Massachusetts native coincidentally had his best ever game against the school he grew up just minutes down the street from.

“Coach Curran, back when I was at Central Catholic, had a strength program where he was training me,” said Desroisiers Jr. “Going into it I wanted to do as well as possible because it’s our home state school, so I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”

“Three touchdowns, that’s a solid effort,” said Brown. “The way he went about his business, he’s kind of fought the injury bug a bit, I thought he had a breakout game today.”

Merrimack made life difficult running the ball earlier on in the game, frustrating Brown and the coaching staff.

“We didn’t run the ball very well in the first half,” Brown noted. “In the second half we ran it at will, and Greg really gave us the little bit of the lightning strike that seemed like every time he was touching the ball it was a multiple yard deal.”

The Warrior secondary made life difficult for the Minutemen all afternoon, limiting the impact of UMass quarterback Taisun Phommachanh (9-for-20, 104 yards, 1 TD) and top receiver Anthony Simpson (2 receptions, 33 yards).

Merrimack’s offense struggled to find consistency throughout the day. Quarterback Malakai Anthony (10-for-26, 98 yards) faced pressure all day from a Minutemen front seven who turned in one of its best performances of the season.

Merrimack running back Tyvon Edmonds Jr. (20 carries, 75 yards) – one of the top rushers in the FCS – struggled to find his footing and make an impact in the game.

After each side traded possessions to start the game the Warriors struck first. A four-yard run from Anderson gave Merrimack an early 7-0 lead, taking the air immediately out of the stands. The Warriors almost had the ball back in Minutemen territory the very next drive after a Mark Pope (1 reception, 10 yards) fumble that was called back. The scare didn’t stunt the UMass offense though, as an 11-yard touchdown from George Johnson III (2 receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD) would even the game at 7-7.

The sides traded punts the next few possessions before UMass kicker Cameron Carson missed a 48-yard field goal. The Minutemen defense forced another three-and-out to set up the offense for an eight-yard touchdown run by Desroisiers Jr. on the next drive to get its first lead of the day at 14-7.

A missed Merrimack kick from Lliam Davis held the UMass lead going into halftime.

The Minutemen claimed the only points of the third quarter from a 39-yard Carson field goal, pushing the lead to 17-7. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Desroisiers Jr got his second of the day with an electric 57-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 24-7. Just a few drives later, Desroisiers Jr. scored his third of the game, this time a 46-yard rush to give the Minutemen a 31-7 lead. The Warriors Donovan Wadley took back a 95-yard touchdown on the ensuing kick, good for his third of the season, to cut the UMass lead to 31-14.

In the dying embers of the game the Warriors ran an option pass trick play to cut the Minutemen lead to 31-21, with LJ Robinson catching the 33-yard strike.

Now, UMass gets another bye week before facing Liberty and UConn to close out the season, a season that will be viewed much differently now than it appeared just a few weeks ago.