Brady Olson plays QB

Massachusetts quarterback Brady Olson checks his line against Boston College, Saturday, in Amherst.

It was not planned that UMass freshman quarterback Brady Olson is named Brady, grew up in Bellingham and wears TB12’s number.

“It’s definitely a coincidence,” Olson said. “I was not expecting to get this jersey. I showed up and it was there, so I took what they gave me.”

Olson, who played at Milford High School, did not wear the Tom Brady number there either.

“I did not,” he said. “I wore seven.”

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the true freshman quarterback. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts high schools played their football seasons in the so-called Fall II season, which ran in March and April. So, instead of playing in the autumn, Olson went right from playing football to graduating to showing up in Amherst and to getting his first college start due to an injury to Tyler Lytle.

Olson wasn’t Mac Jones good in his first collegiate start, but he did guide the Minutemen to 28 points in the second half of a 45-28 loss to Boston College Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

He was 4 for 10 for 25 yards in the first half against the Eagles. The freshman quarterback came out in the third quarter and threw a dime that Rico Arnold Jr. ran under for a 56-yard touchdown. Olson ended the game 14 for 29 for 214 yards and three second-half touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice.

The day actually began okay as Olson hit fellow freshman Michael Fitzgerald on a 11-yard pass play for a first down. Olson’s second pass was incomplete, but the Eagles were called for defensive pass interference. On the third play, Olson underthrew Eric Collins and had the pass intercepted by Josh DeBerry. That pick led to BC’s first touchdown.

When the day was done, Olson completed 14 passes to nine different receivers. Tight end Taylor Edwards had three catches for 32 yards, while Arnold Jr., Ellis Merriweather and Onuma Dieke had two catches each.

UMass coach Walt Bell discussed Olson when he met with reporters after the game.

“Here’s the wonderful thing about Brady Olson,” Bell said. “He’s going to feel exactly the way I want him to feel. He’s probably sitting in the quarterbacks’ room right now, getting ready to watch this game. He is one of the most intentful, purposeful young people that I’ve ever been around, and that’s what’s going to allow him to become a great player someday.”

Will Olson start on Saturday against Eastern Michigan? Bell did not commit one way or the other, saying that it will depend on the health of Lytle, which will be determined during the week.

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One big difference between the games against Pittsburgh and Boston College was the simple fact that Lytle was sacked five times in the game while Olson officially was not sacked at all.

One play in the fourth quarter should have been recorded as a sack because Olson scrambled after finding no receiver open. When BC’s Cam Horsley tackled Olson for a two-yard loss, it could have been called a sack.

Another time, the freshman quarterback was smoked by Shitta Sillah. Sillah was flagged for roughing the passer.

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Looking at the stat book, one thing that jumps out is that of the top six tacklers for UMass in the game against Boston College, only two of them were defensive backs. That is a far cry from the Pittsburgh when three of the top five tacklers were defensive backs.

Linebacker Gerrell Johnson, who was ejected in the Pitt game after recording five tackles in just over a quarter, led both teams with 13 tackles. The freshman had five solo tackles. Linebacker Da’Shon Ross was second with eight tackles and end Avien Peah was third with seven. Defensive backs Cody Jones and Josh Wallace were tied with lineman Uchenna Ezewike with five tackles each.

Billy Wooden, who did not play against Pitt, had four tackles. He had two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

One other glaring difference from Week 1 to Week 2, the fact that the UMass defense was not on the field for tons of time.

Last week, the UMass offense ran 58 offensive plays, one fewer than the Minutemen ran against Boston College. The Eagles managed only 61 offensive plays. That was a far cry from the 86 plays Pittsburgh ran against the Minutemen in Heinz Field.

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Bell told reporters in the postgame press conference that the Minutemen were short five starters, including Lytle, and lost a couple of other players during the game.

He cited nose tackle Josh Atwood, who was already replacing injured starter Taishan Holmes, and linebacker Zack Magdis.

In addition, starting left guard Reggie Marks III has been ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA. That means, Michigan transfer Willie Allen is the new starter there.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.