It’s been quite a busy time at the Jacobson Performance Center, as University of Massachusetts football coach Don Brown puts the finishing touches on his first recruiting class and begins to anticipate the fall 2022 schedule.
Earlier this week, UMass released its schedule for Brown’s first season. The 12-game schedule includes five home games and seven road games.
The season begins Saturday, September 3 with a road trip to Tulane and will end when Army visits McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday, November 26, which is Thanksgiving weekend.
Of the 12 teams played by UMass, six of them had winning records last year. All six went or were invited to play bowls. Texas A&M, which was scheduled to play in the Gator Bowl, pulled out due to injury and COVID-19 concerns.
Here’s who’s on the schedule.
September 3, at Tulane. The Green Wave went 2-10 last year, with their only FBS win over American Athletic Conference rival South Florida. Tulane also lost to FBS Final Four team Cincinnati 31-12. Coach Willie Fritz’s team has only played UMass once, beating the Minutemen 31-24 in 2016. In that game, Andrew Ford threw two first-quarter touchdown passes to Andy Isabella, but the Green Wave beat UMass 31-10 the rest of the way.
September 10, in Toledo. The first of three games against former Mid-American Conference opponents, the Rockets routed UMass 45-7 at McGuirk on Oct. 2. The 7-6 Rockets were 5-3 in the MAC and won a bid for the Bahamas Bowl, but lost there at Middle Tennessee State. Toledo is now 3-0 against UMass.
September 17 vs. Stony Brook. The only home game in UMass’ first four contests, the Seawolves are 0-3 against UMass, but it will be the first time the teams have played since UMass upgraded to FBS. Last year, coach Chuck Priore’s team went 5-6 and 4-4 in the CAA. Priore spent six years at Trinity, leading the Bantams to a 39-5, 8-0 record in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
September 24, at the Temple. Oh, what could have been? One has to wonder if the trajectory of coach Mark Whipple’s tenure at UMass might have changed had the Minutemen been able to finish off the Owls on Sept. 19, 2015, at Gillette Stadium. In that game, Jamal Wilson caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Blake Frohnapfel with 1:20 left in the game. Blake Lewis’ point-after-kick was blocked and returned for two points by Avery Williams, making it 23-22, UMass. The Owls drove for a game-winning field goal from 32 yards by Austin James. Temple, 3-9 and 1-7 in the AAC last year, is 2-0 against UMass. Like the Minutemen, Temple has a new coach in Stan Drayton.
October 1, Eastern Michigan. The two former MAC opponents had played twice in conference and UMass had won them both. In 2021, Eastern came to McGuirk and beat the Minutemen 42-28. Eastern Michigan finished its season 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the MAC. It earned the Eagles a trip to the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where they were defeated by Liberty 56-20.
October 8, Freedom. The Flames, who finished 8-5 and earned the trip to Mobile, beat the Minutemen 62-17 last year. While the Minutemen may not like seeing Liberty on the schedule, at least quarterback Malik Willis will be in the NFL by then. In two years, Willis set the Minutemen on fire, throwing for 540 yards on 35-for-51 passes and seven touchdowns. Returning UMass newbies may send her a graduation gift.
October 15, Buffalo. The Bulls are 7-6 against the Minutemen, but lost in 2015, the last time they met. Buffalo got a new coach last year when Maurice Linguist replaced Lance Leopold, who went to Kansas. He guided Buffalo to a 4-8 record, which included MAC wins over Ohio and Akron. Buffalo was 4-8, 2-6 in conference.
October 29, New Mexico State. These disparate independents faced off in the final game of 2021, and UMass lost that game 44-27. The Aggies were 2-10 and resided near the bottom of the FBS standings, along with the Minutemen. It was a long way to New Mexico last year, and it will be a long way to New England.
November 5, at UConn. Two teams with new coaches, Brown and Jim Mora Jr. of UConn, will connect at East Hartford. The Minutemen got their lone win by beating UConn 27-13 and having the students storm McGuirk territory. The Huskies 1-11 earned their lone win over FCS Yale of the Ivy League.
Nov. 12, Arkansas State. This game was a Walt Bell special. Bell previously worked at Arkansas State and the game was scheduled shortly after Bell arrived at Amherst. But Bell’s mentor, Blake Anderson, is now at Utah State, and Bell himself is the offensive coordinator at Indiana. Nonetheless, the Minutemen will travel to Jonesboro, Ark., for a game against a team that went 2-10 in 2021.
Nov. 19 at Texas A&M. It’s the Power-Five game that small FBS teams play for big money. It’s a $1.7 million paycheck that will be donated to UMass to play at Bryan-College Station against the Fighting Jimbo Fishers. The Aggies were 8-4 last year and earned a trip to the Gator Bowl. It was a trip they couldn’t take. COVID-19 and injury concerns forced A&M to withdraw from the Gator Bowl.
November 26, Army. The Cadets 9-4 beat Missouri 24-22 in the Liberty Bowl and beat UMass 33-17. It was 19-17 when Josiah Johnson scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The cadets scored the last two touchdowns of the game. It was, other than the win over UConn, UMass’ best performance of 2021.