Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Conner Weigman (15) and Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Marcus Harris (50) dive for a fumble recovered by Weigman as Auburn Tigers take on Texas A&M Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

A losing streak will end as Texas A&M hosts UMass

Texas A&M will try to break its longest losing streak since 1972 on Saturday when the Aggies host UMass in College Station, Texas, in a non-conference game and first-ever meeting between the teams.

The Aggies (3-7) have dropped six consecutive games after last Saturday’s 13-10 loss at Auburn, ending their hopes of bowl eligibility. This after starting the season with College Football Playoff hopes.

“It’s very disappointing, but we’ve got to go back to work and fix it and get better,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.

UMass (1-9), meantime, has lost seven in a row.

A&M was without starting back Devon Achane (foot) and receiver Moose Muhammad (benched, reportedly for wearing arm sleeves) against Auburn, which led to five true freshmen in the lineup.

Quarterback Conner Weigman returned after being sidelined against Florida (illness), but he was just 14-of-36 for 121 yards and in one stretch threw 13 consecutive incompletions.

While the Aggies intercepted two passes and allowed just 115 second-half yards, the offense left plenty to be desired and spurred questions about the possibility of Fisher bringing in an offensive coordinator. He currently calls offensive plays.

“We weren’t in sync, couldn’t get in rhythm,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to coach them better, and that’s on us coaches.”

Fisher expects Achane to return this season. Muhammad will be available on Saturday.

Though UMass is 0-9 against FBS competition this season (its only victory was against FCS team Stony Brook), it presents a challenge with the 51st-ranked total defense (364.1 yards per game) in FBS. Don Brown’s team is also 10th in opponent’s third-down percentage (.296).

The Minutemen fell 35-33 to another first-time foe in Arkansas State last week and now will face their first SEC challenge since 2018 at No. 5 Georgia.

“Our kids have played in some pretty sophisticated environments in terms of crowd, noise and so forth,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “I think we’ll be just fine.”

Another strong game from redshirt senior Ellis Merriweather certainly would help UMass. He rushed for 122 yards, two touchdowns and a conversion at Arkansas State.

Merriweather has eclipsed the century mark 10 times and scored a pair of touchdowns three times in his career.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2019; Champaign, IL, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown looks on during the second half of the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Don Brown to return to UMass as head coach

UMass is hiring Don Brown as its next head coach, returning him to the program he led more than a decade ago, multiple outlets reported.

An announcement could come Monday.

Brown, 66, is a Massachusetts native with deep New England roots. He is in his first season as defensive coordinator at Arizona but has nearly 45 years of coaching experience that includes stops as the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Boston College, UConn, Maryland, Brown, Yale and Dartmouth.

He was head coach at Northeastern (2000-03) and UMass (2004-08), and led the Minutemen to the FCS title game in 2006.

He had a 43-19 record at UMass, which moved to the FBS level in 2012.

Brown will replace Walt Bell, who was fired earlier this month in his third season after a 2-23 record. The Minutemen are 1-10 this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 16, 2019; Evanston, IL, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen head coach Walt Bell looks on in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

UMass fires Walt Bell after 2-23 mark at school

UMass fired football coach Walt Bell on Sunday, a day after the Minutemen lost their homecoming game to FCS program Rhode Island.

Defensive coordinator Tommy Restivo also was fired and offensive line coach Alex Miller, a 2007 UMass alum and a former All-American offensive lineman, will serve as interim head coach.

The school said a national search for a new head coach would begin immediately.

Bell leaves the program after compiling a 2-23 record since he took over as head coach before the 2019 season

The only win for UMass this season came Oct. 9 against UConn, which also is 1-8 on the season.

Miller previously was on the coaching staffs at Oregon and New Hampshire.

Bell, now 37, was hired in December 2018 following one season as the offensive coordinator at Florida State. He also previously coached at Arkansas State, Maryland, Florida State, North Carolina, Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and Memphis.

His only other win with UMass came Sept. 28, 2019, over Akron.

UMass has three games remaining on the season: Nov. 13 vs. Maine, Nov. 20 at Army and Nov. 27 at New Mexico State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers running back Reese White (2) is tackled by the Massachusetts Minutemen in the NCAA football game of Massachusetts and Coastal Carolina at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Coastal Carolina cruises to 53-3 rout of UMass

Grayson McCall threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 17 Coastal Carolina blew past visiting Massachusetts 53-3 on Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.

Six different Coastal Carolina players scored touchdowns in the rout that saw the Chanticleers take the lead four minutes into the game.

Tyson Mobley scored a pair of touchdowns for Costal Carolina. Braydon Bennett was the top rusher for the Chanticleers, picking up 83 yards on eight carries and scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the second half.

It was the final nonconference tune up for Coastal Carolina (4-0) before beginning Sun Belt Conference play. The Chanticleers have won all three of their home games by a double-digit margin.

It will be at least two full calendar years between victories for UMass (0-4), which is 0-15 since winning Sept. 28, 2019, against Akron.

McCall, who was 10-of-14 for 162 yards in the air, began the scoring on a 3-yard run with 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Reese White added a 12-yard scoring run in the opening quarter before Coastal Carolina’s dominating 23-point second quarter led to a 36-0 halftime advantage.

On the opening possession of the game, UMass gained 10 net yards and the drive ended when Costal Carolina’s Mason Shelton blocked a UMass punt, giving the Chanticleers the ball at the 4-yard line. Costal Carolina’s second touchdown drive went 99 yards in nine plays.

McCall hit Isaiah Likely on a 25-yard touchdown play early in the second quarter for a 20- advantage. Mobley ran in from 22 yards out and McCall hooked up with Jaivon Heiligh on a 23-yard touchdown toss to make it 36-0 by halftime.

In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Bryce Carpenter hit Mobley for a 9-yard touchdown play and a 43-0 advantage.

Heiligh finished with five catches for 118 yards as part of the Chanticleer’s 558 yards of total offense. Likely had 76 yards on three receptions.

UMass quarterback Brady Olson completed 14-of-23 passes for 86 yards.

The Minutemen were held to 158 yards of total offense, failing to reach a double-digit point total for the second time this season. They finally scored with 8:22 remaining on Cameron Carson’s 35-yard field goal to cap a 13-play drive.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers wide receiver Aaron Bedgood (3) turns the ball up field and out runs Buffalo Bulls defensive end Taylor Riggins (49) and cornerback Aapri Washington (3) to score a touchdown giving the Chanticleers an early 7-0 lead during the first quarter of play at UB Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nicholas LoVerde-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Coastal Carolina hosts winless UMass

Coastal Carolina rose up to meet a couple of types of challenges early this season.

Now there’s a different task going into the fourth game.

No. 17 Coastal Carolina meets winless Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.

“Just really to challenge them to play within ourselves,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said.

This will be the Chanticleers’ last nonconference game before stepping into the Sun Belt portion of their schedule.

The past two weeks have served Coastal Carolina (3-0) well. The Chanticleers knocked off the lone team from a Power Five conference on their schedule when Kansas visited. Then last week they made their first road trip, hanging on for a 28-25 decision at Buffalo.

“It’s good to face adversity,” Chadwell said.

UMass has had plenty of that. It has been nearly two calendar years since the Minutemen last won – a 37-29 decision against Akron on Sept. 28, 2019. They’re 0-14 since then.

Coastal Carolina has been able to count on running back Shermari Jones, who has added another dimension to the offense as a regular contributor to the rushing attack with two games of more than 100 yards on the ground.

“Now he’s one of the key guys,” Chadwell said. “He was physical. We’re going to have that if we’re going to continue to be better.”

Jones said the close call in Buffalo provided a good source of knowledge of areas that need to be addressed.

“We feel we didn’t play our best game,” Jones said. “We’re going to get it cleaned up and get back rolling.”

UMass (0-3) hasn’t been able to hang with its first three opponents, in part because of some rough starts.

“It’s something we emphasize every day,” coach Walt Bell said. “Obviously I’m not pushing it well enough, but that’s one of our things that matters is starting fast and execution.”

The UMass players have noticed how early deficits have been troublesome.

“We’ve started out kind of flat the past couple games. We need to understand what we are getting ourselves into,” running back Ellis Merriweather said. “We need to bring the energy when we first walk out there onto the field.”

The Minutemen are using freshman Brady Olson at quarterback. They’re relying on his continued development.

“He did some things that you wouldn’t expect a freshman to do, but he also did some things that a really young player does,” Bell said. “He’s a tough kid — physically tough, mentally tough.”

Merriweather said Olson, who has thrown for five touchdowns with three interceptions, shows good composure and will grow in his role.

“I don’t judge him for making mistakes,” he said. “He is still learning. I think he has been exceptional for the situation that has been placed on him.”

UMass is trying to get through an independent schedule that’s stocked with notable assignments, including three Power Five opponents. They’ve already played Pittsburgh and Boston College, while they’ll have Florida State, Liberty and Army later on.

So the game against Coastal Carolina, which is the first ranked foe of the season, adds to the challenges.

The Chanticleers won the most recent game against UMass, a 62-28 dismantling in the most-recent clash on Sept. 21, 2019.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley along the sidelines during the first half against the Colgate Raiders at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

QB Phil Jurkovec hurt, but Boston College defeats UMass

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec and wide receiver Zay Flowers – Boston College’s two biggest stars – were both banged up, but the Eagles still had enough to defeat host Massachusetts, 45-28, on Saturday afternoon.

Flowers, who injured his left leg, returned. But Jurkovec, who left the game with just 4:09 expired in the first quarter due to a right-wrist injury, did not come back. His status is uncertain.

BC scored two special-teams touchdowns, including on Travis Levy’s kickoff return as he atoned for a costly fumble. In addition, BC’s Patrick Garwo rushed 15 times for 160 yards and tight end Trae Barry had five catches for 98 yards and one TD.

Dennis Grosel, who replaced Jurkovec, completed 11 of 14 pass attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for a score.

BC (2-0) has now won 11 consecutive games in its series against the Minutemen (0-2). The last time UMass beat BC was in 1978.

The Minutemen haven’t won a game since beating Akron 37-29 on Sept. 28, 2019. Since then, they have lost 13 straight games. Last year, Massachusetts went 0-4 and scored a total of just 12 points.

On Saturday, Massachusetts’ Brady Olson, a true freshman, got his first career start, replacing graduate transfer Tyler Lytle, who is injured. Olson completed 14 of 29 pass attempts for 214 yards and three TDs. He was intercepted twice.

Olson was intercepted on his first pass of the day as cornerback Josh DeBerry got the pick. BC converted that into a 14-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Alex Sinkfield’s 6-yard TD run.

On BC’s next drive, Grosel’s two-yard TD run capped a 68-yard drive.

Massachusetts threatened later in the second quarter, getting a first-and-goal at the BC 2-yard line in what became a 14-play, 68-yard drive. However, BC stuffed UMass on four straight running plays that went for 1 yard, minus-1 yard, 1 yard and minus-6 yards.

Each team scored three touchdowns in a wild third quarter.

Olson’s 56-yard bomb to Rico Arnold got UMass on the board.

BC answered on Levy’s 20-yard TD run.

The Eagles struck again on Grosel’s 44-yard TD toss to Barry.

UMass responded with Rutgers transfer Kay’Ron Adams’ 1-yard TD run. The Minutemen converted after Levy fumbled a punt at his own 1-yard line, recovered by Javon Batten.

BC scored on special teams as Vinny DePalma’s punt-coverage hit jarred the ball loose from Eric Collins, and Florida State transfer Jaiden Lars-Woodbey pounced on it and brought it back for a 41-yard TD.

Collins made amends for his fumble by scoring on a 15-yard pass from Olson, cutting UMass’ deficit to 35-21 with 1:56 left in the third.

The fourth quarter started with a similar scoring spree. After a BC field goal, UMass’ Ellis Merriweather caught a 14-yard TD pass from Olson, cutting the Minutemen deficit to 38-28 with 9:04 left in the fourth.

But Levy’s 96-yard kickoff return gave BC a 45-28 advantage.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) carries the ball against Massachusetts Minutemen defensive back Te'Rai Powell (21) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh breezes past UMass, 51-7

Kenny Pickett threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns to lift host Pittsburgh to a 51-7 rout of Massachusetts on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Pickett completed 30 of 40 passes and tossed scoring strikes to tight end Lucas Krull and Jordan Addison. A.J. Davis, Israel Abanikanda, Vincent Davis, Daniel Carter and backup quarterback Nick Patti each rushed for a score for Pittsburgh (1-0).

Eleven different Panthers reeled in at least one pass, with Jared Wayne leading the way with six catches for 55 yards.

Pittsburgh secured a 23-0 lead at halftime after holding a 358-50 edge in total yards and 20-3 advantage in first downs. The Panthers let up a bit in the second half before finishing the game with a 597-209 edge in total yards and 35-12 advantage in first downs.

UMass’ Tyler Lytle completed just 14 of 31 passes for 167 yards and scored on a 1-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter. That was the lone bright spot for the Minutemen (0-1), who have lost 12 in a row since posting a 37-29 win over Akron on Sept. 28, 2019.

Pickett connected with Krull on a 5-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring with 4:56 remaining in the first half. The short pass capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive.

Addison reeled in a short pass from Pickett and benefited from fellow wideout Jaylon Barden’s freeing block to scamper 12 yards for a score. The Panthers’ lead remained at 13-0 after Sam Scarton missed the ensuing extra-point attempt.

Scarton atoned for his missed kick by making a 35-yard field goal and A.J. Davis added to Pittsburgh’s advantage by taking an inside handoff and scampering 18 yards for a score with 36 seconds left in the second quarter.

Vincent Davis rushed for a 6-yard touchdown early in the third quarter and Abanikanda breezed in from 12 yards out to stake the Panthers to a 37-0 lead.

Lytle’s touchdown plunge put UMass on the board before Patti and Carter scored from 9 and 6 yards out, respectively, to cap the scoring.

Prior to the game, the Panthers honored the members of the 1976 national championship team — including Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.

–Field Level Media

Sep 5, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday celebrates after his team scored a touchdown during the first quarter against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Marshall on a roll entering game vs. UMass

If numbers ever could be deceiving, Massachusetts football fans have to hope it is this week, when the Minutemen travel to Huntington, W.Va., to face No. 16 Marshall on Saturday.

After all, the Thundering Herd (5-0, 3-0 Conference USA) are allowing an average of only 9.4 points and 265 yards per game this season, both in the nation’s top five.

Marshall has continued its run despite having three coronavirus-induced holes in its schedule. Not that the Herd will get any sympathy from UMass (0-1).

An FBS independent, UMass canceled its football season in mid-August, only to announce a month later there would be a limited slate. By then, its opponents had booked conference-only games.

In their only game so far this season, the Minutemen were walloped 41-0 at Georgia Southern on Oct. 17. After facing Marshall, the only other game on the Minutemen schedule is Nov. 27 against another ranked opponent in No. 25 Liberty.

With just one UMass game to reference, Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday said his staff has resorted to studying the tendencies of the Minutemen coaching staff when they were elsewhere, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

A lack of information about an opponent only makes it that much more important to look inward, Holliday said.

“When you get into a situation like this, you have to worry about yourself,” he said. “Us as a football team, we have a standard that we have to play up to, and we’ve got to get better as a team.”

Marshall’s defense has 17 sacks this season, led by five from Darius Hodge. Abraham Beauplan has two forced fumbles, and fellow linebacker Tavante Beckett has three fumble recoveries, including one for a score.

The Herd’s offense is averaging 33.8 points and 427.4 yards per game, enough to apply pressure on that side of the ball as well.

“When you are playing the kind of defense we’re playing, you want to get down in that red zone and you want to walk away with points,” Holliday said.

Freshman quarterback Grant Wells has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns this season, although he has thrown four interceptions.

Junior Brenden Knox has 556 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, with seven touchdowns.

UMass fell behind Georgia Southern quickly, giving up two touchdowns before seven minutes had expired off the clock. The Eagles finished with 436 total yards to 191 for the Minutemen.

UMass quarterbacks Mike Fallon and Josiah Johnson combined to go 13-of-21 passing for 80 yards and two interceptions. The leading UMass rusher was Will Koch with 41 yards on four carries, including a long of 25 yards.

UMass coach Walt Bell had higher expectations despite the COVID-19 hardships.

“Even though we’ve only had 16 or 17 practices and haven’t been able to kind of have a full camp, I honestly, in my heart, felt we would run the football better,” he said.

When the Minutemen returned from Georgia, the state of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 protocols mandated a two-week quarantine.

“We basically had that quarantine, had to suspend football activities for a week, per our campus. We were able to get back out there in earnest a little bit [last] Saturday, but really in earnest on Sunday. It’s been good,” Bell said. “The kids were kind of itching to get out of their rooms a little bit, which I can understand. I don’t know how well I would have handled doing that as an 18- to 22-year-old.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UMass opts back in to fall football season

Massachusetts will play a limited fall football season, six weeks after canceling it amid coronavirus concerns, the school announced Monday.

In a news release, the school said the decision was made after reviewing the program’s COVID-19 safety protocols and “rigorous testing regimen” in place since players returned to campus in June.

The Big Ten announced its plan last week to play a fall season after announcing in August that the season would be delayed until spring. Leaders of the Pac-12 and Mid-American conferences also are mulling such a move.

UMass is seeking to begin its season in mid-October and is working to develop a “competitive multi-contest schedule.” Any home games will be played without fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has always been our first priority,” athletic director Ryan Bamford said. “Since returning to campus in June, the members of our football program have been vigilant in following the policies and safety protocols instituted by the state, our university and athletics department, helping us reach a high level of confidence that we can safely conduct a truncated season this fall. Further, our recent work to generate a schedule in the spring semester, similar to our other fall sports, indicated that fall 2020 provided the best opportunity for our football student-athletes to take the field this academic year.”

The school said that it had conducted more than 1,800 COVID-19 tests within the football program, with two positive results, and will continue to test players, coaches and support staff “multiple” times each week.

“Everyone associated with our program is excited to play football this fall,” Minutemen coach Walt Bell said. “We have successfully created one of the safest environments in college football since June and our young men deserve the opportunity to compete in 2020.”

UMass, an independent, was 1-11 in Bell’s first season in 2019.

–Field Level Media

Oct 27, 2018; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen running back Marquis Young (8) runs the ball against the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UMass defeated UConn 22-17. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UMass cancels football season

The University of Massachusetts canceled its football season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Tuesday.

UMass is an FBS independent.

“The continuing challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic posed too great of a risk, and we reached the conclusion that attempting to play a season would not have placed the members of our program in the safest situation possible,” Minutemen athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement.

UMass players were informed of the decision Tuesday morning.

“I am absolutely heartbroken for our players, our former players, our alumni and our UMass Football community,” UMass coach Walt Bell said in a statement. “Our job as coaches and mentors is to provide opportunities for our players, and do everything in our power to not take them away. Today’s news was devastating, but we will be resilient and prepared to be our best when our best is required.”

UMass joins UConn as the second FBS independent to cancel its season. The Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have canceled their seasons as well.

–Field Level Media