You’d have thought the University of Massachusetts had won a big, important game on Saturday. The fans stormed the field and the stadium celebrated as the team claimed victory. Their first win in 742 days.
The game? A matchup between the 0-6 University of Connecticut Huskies and the 0-5 UMass team that hadn’t won a game since a matchup in 2019 with Akron. The last time the Huskies won a game, incidentally, was in their 2019 matchup against UMass.
The game opened with a flair. UConn stalled out on their first drive, but UMass’ offense marched down the field in a 12-play drive that went more than 70 yards and was capped by Ellis Merriweather’s first rushing touchdown of the night.
UConn bounced back, scoring a touchdown on their next drive on one of Steven Krajewski’s best passes of the year, a 34-yard ball to wide receiver Keelan Marion. That play was made possible by freshman running back Nate Carter who had a 30-yard rush earlier in the drive, one of his best of the year.
UConn climbed the lead later in the first quarter with a 38-yard field goal from Joe McFadden, giving the team a 10-7 lead. And then…nothing happened.
From one minute left in the first quarter to nine minutes left in the third, nothing happened. Neither team scored and both struggled hard, with six punts in the second quarter. Both defenses tightened their lines and attempted to hold back the forces of Carter and Merriweather respectively, and both succeeded to some extent until the third.
Both quarterbacks also struggled. Krajewski, who started the game to replace Tyler Phommachanh, ended the game with 128 yards, a touchdown pass and two interceptions. On the other side of the field, Vanderbilt went for a two-quarterback technique, with Brady Olson taking most of the snaps. Zamar Wise subbed in for the occasional play, mostly with his legs.
Olson struggled early on in the game, consistently overthrowing his targets in attempts that led to stalled drives in the second. But he improved as the game went on, ending with 162 passing yards and no scores or interceptions.
The real hero of the game was Merriweather. He gained 168 yards on the ground and pulled off two touchdowns, cementing his team’s position in the lead of the game with a rushing touchdown a few minutes into the fourth quarter that put the team up 20-10.
It was a humiliating loss for the Huskies, who came into the game as three-point favorites and left with a 14-point loss, a worse loss than to Vanderbilt or Wyoming earlier this year. And while the UConn team’s situation is clearly worth questioning when looking at this game, the team was lacking their head coach and multiple players to a COVID outbreak; however, none of those questions change the fact that the UConn team lost. Again.
Perhaps the only positive for the Huskies is that this loss will likely soon be forgotten under the weight of their game against Clemson next month. No matter how that game goes, it’s certainly going to be more of a focus than whatever happened on Saturday. But for now, the team looks ahead toward their game next week, when they face off against Yale in the attempt to claim their first win of the season.