UMass fired football coach Walt Bell on Sunday, a day after the Minutemen lost their homecoming game to FCS program Rhode Island.
Defensive coordinator Tommy Restivo also was fired and offensive line coach Alex Miller, a 2007 UMass alum and a former All-American offensive lineman, will serve as interim head coach.
The school said a national search for a new head coach would begin immediately.
Bell leaves the program after compiling a 2-23 record since he took over as head coach before the 2019 season
The only win for UMass this season came Oct. 9 against UConn, which also is 1-8 on the season.
Miller previously was on the coaching staffs at Oregon and New Hampshire.
Bell, now 37, was hired in December 2018 following one season as the offensive coordinator at Florida State. He also previously coached at Arkansas State, Maryland, Florida State, North Carolina, Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and Memphis.
His only other win with UMass came Sept. 28, 2019, over Akron.
UMass has three games remaining on the season: Nov. 13 vs. Maine, Nov. 20 at Army and Nov. 27 at New Mexico State.
–Field Level Media
Grayson McCall threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as No. 17 Coastal Carolina blew past visiting Massachusetts 53-3 on Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.
Six different Coastal Carolina players scored touchdowns in the rout that saw the Chanticleers take the lead four minutes into the game.
Tyson Mobley scored a pair of touchdowns for Costal Carolina. Braydon Bennett was the top rusher for the Chanticleers, picking up 83 yards on eight carries and scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the second half.
It was the final nonconference tune up for Coastal Carolina (4-0) before beginning Sun Belt Conference play. The Chanticleers have won all three of their home games by a double-digit margin.
It will be at least two full calendar years between victories for UMass (0-4), which is 0-15 since winning Sept. 28, 2019, against Akron.
McCall, who was 10-of-14 for 162 yards in the air, began the scoring on a 3-yard run with 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Reese White added a 12-yard scoring run in the opening quarter before Coastal Carolina’s dominating 23-point second quarter led to a 36-0 halftime advantage.
On the opening possession of the game, UMass gained 10 net yards and the drive ended when Costal Carolina’s Mason Shelton blocked a UMass punt, giving the Chanticleers the ball at the 4-yard line. Costal Carolina’s second touchdown drive went 99 yards in nine plays.
McCall hit Isaiah Likely on a 25-yard touchdown play early in the second quarter for a 20- advantage. Mobley ran in from 22 yards out and McCall hooked up with Jaivon Heiligh on a 23-yard touchdown toss to make it 36-0 by halftime.
In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Bryce Carpenter hit Mobley for a 9-yard touchdown play and a 43-0 advantage.
Heiligh finished with five catches for 118 yards as part of the Chanticleer’s 558 yards of total offense. Likely had 76 yards on three receptions.
UMass quarterback Brady Olson completed 14-of-23 passes for 86 yards.
The Minutemen were held to 158 yards of total offense, failing to reach a double-digit point total for the second time this season. They finally scored with 8:22 remaining on Cameron Carson’s 35-yard field goal to cap a 13-play drive.
–Field Level Media
Coastal Carolina rose up to meet a couple of types of challenges early this season.
Now there’s a different task going into the fourth game.
No. 17 Coastal Carolina meets winless Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon at Conway, S.C.
“Just really to challenge them to play within ourselves,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said.
This will be the Chanticleers’ last nonconference game before stepping into the Sun Belt portion of their schedule.
The past two weeks have served Coastal Carolina (3-0) well. The Chanticleers knocked off the lone team from a Power Five conference on their schedule when Kansas visited. Then last week they made their first road trip, hanging on for a 28-25 decision at Buffalo.
“It’s good to face adversity,” Chadwell said.
UMass has had plenty of that. It has been nearly two calendar years since the Minutemen last won – a 37-29 decision against Akron on Sept. 28, 2019. They’re 0-14 since then.
Coastal Carolina has been able to count on running back Shermari Jones, who has added another dimension to the offense as a regular contributor to the rushing attack with two games of more than 100 yards on the ground.
“Now he’s one of the key guys,” Chadwell said. “He was physical. We’re going to have that if we’re going to continue to be better.”
Jones said the close call in Buffalo provided a good source of knowledge of areas that need to be addressed.
“We feel we didn’t play our best game,” Jones said. “We’re going to get it cleaned up and get back rolling.”
UMass (0-3) hasn’t been able to hang with its first three opponents, in part because of some rough starts.
“It’s something we emphasize every day,” coach Walt Bell said. “Obviously I’m not pushing it well enough, but that’s one of our things that matters is starting fast and execution.”
The UMass players have noticed how early deficits have been troublesome.
“We’ve started out kind of flat the past couple games. We need to understand what we are getting ourselves into,” running back Ellis Merriweather said. “We need to bring the energy when we first walk out there onto the field.”
The Minutemen are using freshman Brady Olson at quarterback. They’re relying on his continued development.
“He did some things that you wouldn’t expect a freshman to do, but he also did some things that a really young player does,” Bell said. “He’s a tough kid — physically tough, mentally tough.”
Merriweather said Olson, who has thrown for five touchdowns with three interceptions, shows good composure and will grow in his role.
“I don’t judge him for making mistakes,” he said. “He is still learning. I think he has been exceptional for the situation that has been placed on him.”
UMass is trying to get through an independent schedule that’s stocked with notable assignments, including three Power Five opponents. They’ve already played Pittsburgh and Boston College, while they’ll have Florida State, Liberty and Army later on.
So the game against Coastal Carolina, which is the first ranked foe of the season, adds to the challenges.
The Chanticleers won the most recent game against UMass, a 62-28 dismantling in the most-recent clash on Sept. 21, 2019.
–Field Level Media
If numbers ever could be deceiving, Massachusetts football fans have to hope it is this week, when the Minutemen travel to Huntington, W.Va., to face No. 16 Marshall on Saturday.
After all, the Thundering Herd (5-0, 3-0 Conference USA) are allowing an average of only 9.4 points and 265 yards per game this season, both in the nation’s top five.
Marshall has continued its run despite having three coronavirus-induced holes in its schedule. Not that the Herd will get any sympathy from UMass (0-1).
An FBS independent, UMass canceled its football season in mid-August, only to announce a month later there would be a limited slate. By then, its opponents had booked conference-only games.
In their only game so far this season, the Minutemen were walloped 41-0 at Georgia Southern on Oct. 17. After facing Marshall, the only other game on the Minutemen schedule is Nov. 27 against another ranked opponent in No. 25 Liberty.
With just one UMass game to reference, Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday said his staff has resorted to studying the tendencies of the Minutemen coaching staff when they were elsewhere, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
A lack of information about an opponent only makes it that much more important to look inward, Holliday said.
“When you get into a situation like this, you have to worry about yourself,” he said. “Us as a football team, we have a standard that we have to play up to, and we’ve got to get better as a team.”
Marshall’s defense has 17 sacks this season, led by five from Darius Hodge. Abraham Beauplan has two forced fumbles, and fellow linebacker Tavante Beckett has three fumble recoveries, including one for a score.
The Herd’s offense is averaging 33.8 points and 427.4 yards per game, enough to apply pressure on that side of the ball as well.
“When you are playing the kind of defense we’re playing, you want to get down in that red zone and you want to walk away with points,” Holliday said.
Freshman quarterback Grant Wells has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,110 yards and eight touchdowns this season, although he has thrown four interceptions.
Junior Brenden Knox has 556 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, with seven touchdowns.
UMass fell behind Georgia Southern quickly, giving up two touchdowns before seven minutes had expired off the clock. The Eagles finished with 436 total yards to 191 for the Minutemen.
UMass quarterbacks Mike Fallon and Josiah Johnson combined to go 13-of-21 passing for 80 yards and two interceptions. The leading UMass rusher was Will Koch with 41 yards on four carries, including a long of 25 yards.
UMass coach Walt Bell had higher expectations despite the COVID-19 hardships.
“Even though we’ve only had 16 or 17 practices and haven’t been able to kind of have a full camp, I honestly, in my heart, felt we would run the football better,” he said.
When the Minutemen returned from Georgia, the state of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 protocols mandated a two-week quarantine.
“We basically had that quarantine, had to suspend football activities for a week, per our campus. We were able to get back out there in earnest a little bit [last] Saturday, but really in earnest on Sunday. It’s been good,” Bell said. “The kids were kind of itching to get out of their rooms a little bit, which I can understand. I don’t know how well I would have handled doing that as an 18- to 22-year-old.”
–Field Level Media