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UMass football gets a lift from defense, beats Stony Brook for first win of season

The UMass football team had faced almost 200 pass attempts over eight games since its last interception, but the secondary came through in a big way in the Minutemen’s 20-3 win over Stony Brook at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst on Saturday.

Midway through the second quarter, Seawolves quarterback Daron Bryden dropped back and threw to his left. Minutemen cornerback Jordan Mahoney drifted over, snatched the ball out of midair at UMass’s 6-yard line, and turned on the jets to fly 94 yards down the field and put the Minutemen (1-2) ahead by 14.

“Defensively, we gave up a pretty good first quarter,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “And from then on, we kind of staked our claim.”

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The Seawolves (0-2) never reached the end zone as the Minutemen forced six punts and two turnovers on downs. While Stony Brook finished with more yards, the Minutemen’s bend-but-don’t-break strategy paid off, holding the Seawolves to just one field goal on three red-zone trips.

Mahoney’s pick-6 was the Minutemen’s first since Isaiah Rodgers took home an interception against Akron in 2019, and it turned the tide in a game that ended up being defined by the UMass defense.

On the ensuing Stony Brook possession, Minutemen cornerback Josh Wallace blew up a wide receiver screen and picked off another pass at the UMass 40, leading to a 29-yard Cameron Carson field goal and a 17-0 lead.

Gino Campiotti got the starting nod at quarterback and led the Minutemen down the field on the first drive of the game, finding Penn State transfer Cameron Sullivan-Brown for his first career receiving touchdown, an 18-yard connection that gave UMass a 7-0 lead.

Campiotti would finish with 90 yards on 10-for-15 passing, but he also did some work on the ground with 72 rushing yards on 11 carries.

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“Gino’s taken a little bit of criticism, I thought his performance today was a notch above anything he has done,” Brown said.

Later in the second quarter, a bad punt set up the Seawolves inside the Minutemen 30. Stony Brook got as far as the 2-yard line and looked poised to tie the game, but Mahoney intervened with his interception.

Both teams added a field goal before halftime. After returning from the locker room, the defenses took control and the only second-half score came on Carson’s 38-yard field goal with 31 seconds to play in the third.

The Minutemen held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since beating Rhode Island, 49-0, in 2008. After breaking into the win column against an FCS opponent, UMass will return to FBS play at Temple next Saturday at 2 p.m.

“I’m trying to get this thing right,” Brown said, “And I’ve got a group of players in that locker room that are basically doing everything I’m asking them.”


Eamonn Ryan can be reached at eamonn.ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @eamonn_ryan41.