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May 13, 2017

Minutemen travel to Delaware, take on Blue Hens

For the Massachusetts football team, its Week 1 loss to Kansas State provided them with something other than a defeat: it prepared the No. 12 Minutemen for what awaits them this weekend in Delaware.

The University of Delaware Stadium has become known as one of the tougher places to play in the Colonial Athletic Association, and the numbers speak for themselves. The Blue Hen’s 12-3 record against UMass (3-1, 1-0 CAA) at home shows how tough a place it can be, but it’s a welcome challenge to UMass coach Kevin Morris.

“It’s a hostile environment, but we like that, we love great places to play,” Morris said before the team’s practice on Tuesday. “The K-State game, as we’ve talked about with 55,000 screaming, was great, and now we’ll go to Delaware, and there will be 22,000 screaming and we like that, I think our kids feed off that.”

Even senior Jeromy Miles, who has never played at UD Stadium, knows about its reputation, and is looking forward to its sold out crowd.

“We went into a hostile environment at Kansas State, a bigger crowd. So for us, it was a nice experience,” Miles said of playing at Kansas State. “Now we have to come and go to Delaware, I heard it’s sold out all ready. It just gets us more in the mood, [and] gets us ready to play, and we just look forward to it.”

But while Delaware (3-2, 1-2 CAA) may dominate the series at UD Stadium – and even the whole series for that fact, the Blue Hens lead the all-time series, 23-6 – UMass took the last contest there and did so in historical fashion. Back on Nov. 5, 2005, the Minutemen took the contest, 35-7, in Newark, the largest margin of victory for any visitor in the stadium’s history.

UMass has taken the last two games in the series with its win in 2005, and a 17-7 victory last year in Amherst.

While the Minutemen come into Saturday’s contest well rested after their bye week, the Blue Hens are coming off a 27-17 victory at Maine. The win was the first conference victory for Delaware in three tries, as they fell to No. 8 William & Mary and nearly knocked No. 1 Richmond from the top of the polls in Week 2 at UD Stadium.

“They took the number one team in the nation to one point, and they had a field goal to win, a chip shot, and got it blocked. Otherwise they would have beat the No. 1 team in the nation, and the defending national champions,” Morris said.

Delaware’s passing attack (253 yards per game) is tops in the CAA through the first five weeks of the season and will be a test for a UMass secondary that has only had a few challenges to this point in the season.

“They’ll go no backs, they’ll go play action out of one back so they’ll spread it around and try to get you in different match ups in the open space, and their quarterback can do it too, and he can run the ball also,” Morris said of the Blue Hen’s passing game.

The Minutemen’s secondary ranks third in the conference against the pass, giving up just 161 yards per game, but will be without safety Shane Viveiros after his suspension last Friday. Redshirt freshman Kumar Davis, who has seen his share of time this season, is expected to see more time with the absence of Viveiros.

“He’s played a number of reps already, [and] he’s gotten a lot of time. He hasn’t gotten the Rookie of the Week recognition, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been playing and playing well,” Morris said of Davis. “He has already been in the mix a bunch in primetime situations.”

Even more importantly for UMass, it must prove that it can win on the road. The Minutemen’s only road contest of the year was their Week 1 loss to Kansas State, and after a three-game home stand, they will play three of their next four on the road, including games at Richmond and Maine.

“Our last game on the road we lost, so we got to prove that we can go on the road and prove that we can win games, just like we’ve been winning them at home,” Miles said.

Jeffrey R. Larnard can be reached at jlarnard@dailycollegian.com.

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