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Despite outcome Saturday, Morris and Co. already winning on and off the field

Massachusetts football coach Kevin Morris said his team isn’t going to Michigan just for the spectacle of playing a Football Championship Subdivision team.

He doesn’t care about putting his team in front of 100,000-plus fans along with a national TV audience and picking up a paycheck (The Republican reports it’s around $550,000) and going home happy regardless of the outcome.

The second-year coach expects his team to play the Wolverines with as much intent on winning as it would against any other Football Championship Subdivision opponent. Just before practice on Tuesday, he went as far as saying that anything other than a victory would make this trip a failure.

“We’re going there to win,” Morris said. “We’re not going there to be a show team. You know, we’re not the Generals playing the Harlem Globetrotters. We’re going to try to win a game.”

Everyone else outside of Morris and the Minutemen are likely not picking UMass to be the second FCS team in recent history to upset Michigan.

It’s far from a foregone conclusion that the Maroon and White will have to “hail to the victors valiant” when it comes to the Big House. It only needs to look at last week’s game, where James Madison upset then-No.13 Virginia Tech.

Since then, the Hokies are now out of Associated Press Top 25 poll. If the Minutemen upset the Wolverines, it would be without a doubt a huge boost to a team that’s already off to a solid start.

But even if they can’t dethrone the “Champions of the West,” Morris should consider this game to be all in vain. While the phrase “moral victory” is cliché, Morris and Co. will come home with a victory of some sort, even if it’s not reflected in the final score.

UMass football is beginning to get about as popular as anyone can ask for in a FCS setting, between current New York Jets tackle Vladimir Ducasse getting selected in the second round of the NFL Draft and New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz becoming a household name overnight with his preseason play.

The game against the Wolverines only adds to those accomplishments. Recruits want to know that they’ll receive a chance to perform on the big stage and this weekend’s game is just the latest example of that.

If the Minutemen can stay relatively close to Michigan this weekend, there is little doubt that it’s going to create interest.

Their trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. will also create excitement at home and around the state. UMass doesn’t exactly have problems getting fans into games, but a little extra publicity never hurt anyone.

This year, fans that can’t get to Michigan will be treated to something a little closer to home when UMass plays New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 23. Morris said he had nothing to do with the decision to play at the home of the New England Patriots, but it’s safe to assume that the decision-makers had to look no further than last year’s basketball game against Memphis at TD Garden to make that decision.

That game reached higher attendance numbers than any UMass home game last season, despite a snowstorm. While UNH doesn’t quite bring the same buzz as Memphis, watching a game at a pro sports stadium should draw large numbers.

Besides, it also brings the Minutemen to the more populated Eastern Massachusetts, where fans and alumni who don’t feel like making the trip out to Amherst will get a chance to see their school in their own backyard.

There’s no better time to ride the success of recent football graduates than this year and the games against Michigan and New Hampshire are great for making sure the buzz UMass received in recent months continues into the fall.

Add to that the fact that the Minutemen are now one of the best teams in the FCS and you’ve got something that’s better than a show team; the potential to be a serious force in the subdivision for years to come.

Adam Miller is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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