Laying 40 points on the Auburn football spread for Week 1 of the 2023 season doesn’t seem as appetizing after their opponent, UMass, put up 41 points themselves in a shocking upset in Week 0 against New Mexico State on the road.
The Minutemen, led by quarterback Taisun Phommachanh’s 284 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown, knocked off the Aggies’ Conference USA debut 41-30. Tied at 10 during the halftime break, UMass powered past New Mexico State with a four-touchdown fourth quarter.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Minutemen won its first season-opener against an FBS opponent in 40 seasons since 1984 when they beat Ball State — and the last time UMass did it on the road was in 1973 against Rutgers.
Auburn football Week 1 opponent answers coach’s challenge in Week 0 win
UMass answered the call of head coach Don Brown, who said his team would only reveal how good they are when they got punched in the nose.
“We’re not going to know until we get to the games,” Brown said (h/t MassLive). “There is not an issue with work ethic. There’s not an issue with putting the time in. That’s all good. But those are questions that kind of remain. Until the bullet starts flying, we’re not going to know.
“It’s like the old saying, ‘when you get punched in the nose, how do you react?’ How do you handle adversity in those states?”
As it turns out, with the entire college football world counting them out — deeming the Minutemen a touchdown underdog against a New Mexico State squad that has had one winning season in the last five years — they responded to Brown exactly as he would’ve drawn it up.
Can UMass parlay this success into a respectable showing against an Auburn football program riding high with more momentum than it had since before the COVID-19 pandemic? That is a different caliber punch in the mouth than New Mexico State.
But Week 0 was a momentum-builder for the ages for the Minutemen.