Facing Toledo not rocket science for UMass football

  • The UMass football team will take the field again at 7 p.m. Saturday against Toledo in the Glass Bowl.  CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • The UMass defensive line will play a key role in trying to slow down Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn when the Minutemen visit the Rockets at 7 p.m. Saturday. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Ellils Merriweather and UMass’ other running backs should be in for another heavy workload against Toledo on Saturday at 7 p.m. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Don Brown and the UMass football team will face Toledo at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Glass Bowl. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2022 7:06:38 PM
Modified: 9/9/2022 7:13:46 PM

AMHERST — College football isn’t rocket science. Playing Toledo approaches it.

UMass will visit the Rockets at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Ohio. The Minutemen are on the road for the second week in a row against an opponent they’ve historically struggled against.  UMass (0-1) hasn’t beaten Toledo since 1976 and is 1-5 all-time.

The Minutemen have lost seven games in a row by at least two scores. Their average margin of defeat has been 29.6 points per game, but UMass doesn’t lack for belief ahead of Saturday’s game.

“I think it’s hard because a lot of people are saying a certain thing. And it might not necessarily be the truth or it might be the truth, but not the whole truth. I think it’s hard to look at the positive side of things, but I think that's part of life and it’s part of growing,” UMass running back Tim Baldwin Jr. said. “If you look at it from a football perspective, you might get trapped in it. That might be your identity, you might let your head, be like, ‘oh, I can't do this.’ But if you just look at it and the challenge and opportunity to grow, I feel like you're gonna look at a better way and I think it's a better way of achieving out of that situation.”

The Rockets (1-0) prevailed 45-7 last year in Amherst. Toledo coach Jason Candle doesn’t see the same Minutemen that he did a year ago, though.

“There’s a lot of things that are different. They’re playing a lot harder. The effort and attitude of how they play and how they approach it is different,” he said. “One game sample, but that’s not the team that I watched prepping for last year’s game.”

They looked like it on the scoreboard against Tulane, however. UMass left New Orleans with a 32-point drubbing and plenty of missed opportunities. The Minutemen threw three interceptions on Tulane’s side of the field and missed a measurable number of key tackles both in the backfield and out in the open field.

“You can't turn the ball over in college football, and we turned it over three times inside the 50. That's rough sledding,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “Defensively, we left too many plays on the field. I mean, you guys saw it, we're letting guys go free to the quarterback, and we don't make the play. Leaving plays on the field was a huge problem for us defensively because they were there to be had.”

UMass didn’t help itself on special teams, either.

“Our punting execution was not where it needed to be, obviously ended up being a problem for us not only that, but the coverage as well,” Brown said.

Brown addressed those issues by staring them straight in the face. He cut up film of the errors and displayed them for the team, which received it well.

“Getting into the nitty gritty of the rights and wrongs, I think our coach did a good job of not only pointing out the negatives of the game, but also what we did positive,” UMass linebacker Jalen Mackie said. “One of the big points he made is after we've gone through the film, and hash out what we needed to hash it out, it's in the past, we need to move forward, look at Toledo. We've got 11 more games, we’ve just got to right the wrongs and move forward.”

They’ll do so running the same quarterback rotation of Gino Campiotti and Brady Olson as they did against Tulane. Olson took the game’s first snap, but they rotated regularly.

“I think we're doing the right thing. We’re very comfortable with what we're doing with the quarterbacks. Obviously, I'm not comfortable with the end result of the pass game,” Brown said. “We got to get better in the other pieces, you know, the submarine game, there's the screen game, all those things. There's different pieces that you can go to. You just don't start taking the ball and whipping it around. And to be honest with you, we can't do that. We're not capable of that. We’ve just got to keep working and find the things that our guys can do well and go ahead.”

Campiotti led both scoring drives and ran for his first UMass touchdown. He also threw two interceptions. Olson largely handed the ball off and went 2-of-5 for five yards.

“Don’t worry about taking the home run or the intermediate throw down the field. If we got an open guy, throw it to him. I know that sounds crazy, but it really isn't,” Brown said. “Guy’s open, throw it to him. Move the chains. That's what we're trying to get them to understand.”

Everyone understands the challenge Toledo will present. The Rockets made a bowl last season and were picked No. 2 in the MAC West division behind Northern Illinois. The Huskies received the most championship votes (nine), while Toledo was second (six).

“You'll see similar type plays that you saw a week ago,” Brown said. “They’re a spread. The quarterback is a better runner. That's been one of our focuses through the practice week. I think they're searching, too. They're playing a number of guys in different places. I think there's a lot going on there.”

Toledo quarterback DaQuan Finn led the Rockets both in the air (211 yards, two scores) and on the ground (67 yards and a touchdown) in their opener against Long Island University.

“We have good guys. We have guys that football's important to, you know, we need to put our best foot forward,” Brown said. “I’m telling you, this is one of the better practice teams I've been around. Believe that, take it to the field. That’s really a big deal.”

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

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