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UMass football fans storm field after Minutemen drop UConn 27-13 for 1st win in 2 years

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather ran the ball 39 times for 171 yards, as the Minutemen beat UConn 27-13 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium for the team's first win in more than two years. FOR THE GAZETTE/J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather ran the ball 39 times for 171 yards, as the Minutemen beat UConn 27-13 at McGuirk Alumni Stadium for the team's first win in more than two years. FOR THE GAZETTE / J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • UMass running back Ellis Merriweather ran the ball 39 times for 171 yards as the Minutemen beat UConn 27-13 at home. FOR THE GAZETTE / J. ANTHONY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2021

AMHERST — UMass fans couldn’t wait any longer to celebrate a football win.

With 15 seconds remaining on the clock and an ironclad two-score lead, junior Quinn McCarron — in his signature reindeer costume — led the charge over the ropes surrounding the field. Brady Olson just took a knee in the victory formation to seal a 27-13 victory over UConn on Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. It was the Minutemen’s first win since Sept. 28, 2019, snapping a 16-game losing streak, tied for the nation’s longest.

Fans swarmed the teams as they shook hands at midfield. The clock hit zeroes with a mob of Minutemen at the 50-yard line.

“We haven’t had that feeling in a long time,” junior running back Ellis Merriweather said. “I’m glad that we could bring that to the university.”

Merriweather carried the Minutemen there. He toted the football 39 times for a career-high 171 yards and two touchdowns. His longest rush went for 22 yards. Merriweather, the only healthy scholarship running back, gave UMass exactly what it needed on a day throwing was a struggle at times.

“I didn’t know I was going to carry it that much, but the line blocked their butts off,” he said. “They gave me those lanes, and I had a field day.”

Merriweather scored a one-yard touchdown with 12:46 remaining to put the Minutemen up 20-10 with 12 minutes, 46 seconds remaining, UMass’ first double-digit lead or second half lead since the victory over Akron in 2019.

The Huskies promptly drove to the red zone on the strength of a Nate Carer 46-yard run. UConn tight end Brandon Niemenski dropped a sure touchdown on third down from the 3, and the Huskies settled for a 20-yard field goal to cut the Minutemen’s advantage to one score.

UMass responded with an eight play, 78-yard drive. Olson started the drive with a 28-yard pass to Onuma Dieke off play action, then the Minutemen ran the ball seven times in a row. Wise finished it with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make it 27-13 with 4:45 left.

Wise carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards after splitting most of the second half with Olson. 

“We thought that they had some problems managing the edge of the defense, and Zamar could help us with that,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “He’s always going to have a plan with us. As he continues to grow and mature, the more he’ll be able to do.”

That score put the game away, but the Minutemen hadstruck first before the lead changed hands a few times, with Merriweather scoring the first touchdown of his UMass career on the Minutemen’s first drive. He carried the ball 10 times for 58 yards and finished with a 9-yard score on a counter to the left with 8:11 left in the first to make it 7-0. The drive lasted 12 plays and covered 73 yards.

It gave the Minutemen their first lead since the first quarter against Northwestern on Nov. 16, 2019.

“Set the tone, set the tone. We were preaching that all week,” Merriweather said. “We don’t want to play catch up ball. That was the mindset the whole week, and everyone bought in.”

UMass’ defense only allowed UConn to convert 1-of-10 third downs. The Minutemen also only committed three penalties for 30 yards.

“Huge team win for us. I’m happy for our players, more than anything else,” Bell said. “Everything they’ve been through, it’s been a long time for these guys.”

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