UMass (0-0) at Tulane (0-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Yulman Stadium, New Orleans
Colors: M, maroon & black; T, green & blue.
Mascots: M, Minutemen; T, Green Wave.
Gameday: Don Brown will begin his second stint as the head football coach at UMass when the Minutemen visit the Big East to confront the Green Wave.
When Brown left UMass for Maryland after the 2008 season, the Minutemen were a Division I-AA powerhouse that won Atlantic 10 titles and competed in the 2006 national championship game.
The situation in Amherst is a lot different today than it was during Brown’s earlier tenure. The Minutemen play an independent FBS schedule and won just one game in two seasons under Walt Bell. The Minutemen went 0-4 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 1-11 last year.
Brown’s job goes beyond installing new systems on offense, defense and special teams that will eventually elevate the program. Brown had to overhaul the football culture and that, he believes, requires a clean break from the recent past.
“I have focused completely on what is in front of us, not what’s behind us,” said Brown. “I told the kids the first time that I spoke with them, if you live in the past you die in the present and you don’t get any better.
“You can’t live in the past, so move on, work hard and do what I tell you and let’s all work together to make this thing right. That has really been the approach. I don’t feel like when our guys go to work they are scarred by not having success a year ago.”
One of the players Brown will be relying on is returning tailback Ellis Merriweather, a 6-1, 220-pound earth-mover from Alpharetta, Ga.
Merriweather carried the ball 218 times for 1,138 yards and five touchdowns last season. The all-purpose back caught 22 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown. Those are remarkable numbers considering Merriweather was UMass’ only viable offensive threat with opposing defenses focused exclusively on him.
“I am tired of hitting Massachusetts red jerseys and I can’t wait to get some red on those green jerseys or whatever color they are wearing,” said Merriweather.