Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass prepares for home opener against Indiana

By Stephen Hewitt

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Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

After losing badly to Connecticut in its season-opener and Football Bowl Subdivision debut last Thursday, Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar gave his team two options.

He told his young squad Minutemen that they could either let the Huskies beat them twice by dwelling on the 37-0 loss or move past the defeat and focus on this Saturday’s home-opener against Indiana.

And after a hard week at practice, it seems that UMass has chosen the latter.

“It’s tough getting over a loss, but you just have to swallow it and get it out of your system,” redshirt senior free safety Darren Thellen said. “The night after the loss was tough, but it makes the next day at practice easy. You kind of go out there with an open mind.”

Saturday’s matchup with the Hoosiers, which is set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, will be the Minutemen’s first game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro since the team announced the venue as its home in its transition to the FBS. Indiana is coming off its worst season since 1984, the game provides no easy task for the Minutemen.

The Hoosiers, who only won one game in 2011, seem poised to reverse their fortune in 2012. They opened their season last week with a 24-17 victory over Indiana State, which ended a nine-game losing streak dating back to Sept. 17, 2011.

Molnar said the game will come down to a battle in the trenches.

“Being a member of the Big Ten, they have an awesome offensive line, they have an awesome defensive line,” Molnar said. “They’re big, they’re strong, very, very physical men. Our guys really have to pick up the intensity and be able to match them, because the games are won up front.”

UMass will look to match up and contain Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson, who had a career game last week against the Sycamores. He threw for a career-high 280 passing yards with a touchdown while also finding pay dirt on a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Roberson, a dual-threat quarterback, spent his offseason under the tutelage of his offensive coaches. Primarily a run-first quarterback last season, Roberson focused on his passing mechanics during the summer. He’s much improved now in every area and poses as a big challenge for the Minutemen come Saturday.

“Every offense we play, our defense is prepared to contain the quarterback, that’s preached from day one,” Molnar said. “But it’s going to be really important this week that we work to contain Tre.”

“Their offense is very high-powered, they have a lot of athletes on the other end, very talented,” Thellen said. “We just have to come out, do all of our assignments, read all the right keys and I think we’ll be all set. No mistakes.”

On the opposite side of the ball, UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn is hoping to bounce back from a rough night at UConn last week.

The redshirt freshman, in his first career start, went 9-for-22 with 56 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown while facing intense pressure in the pocket from the Huskies all night long. He was also pulled late in the fourth quarter for true freshman A.J. Doyle.

For any young quarterback, it’s never easy to deal with a difficult game like that. But Wegzyn has shown up to practice this week with a high level of enthusiasm and hunger to play better. He said he’s confident going up against an Indiana defense that generated five sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in its opener last week.

“I feel like we’ve made huge strides since the UConn game,” Wegzyn said. “So just in this week alone I think we’ve been stepping it up.

“I think (Indiana is) beatable and I think our offense has a lot more to show than last week,” he said. “We didn’t really get a chance to show what we can do and I think it’s going to be pretty evident when we get out there.”

Indiana vs UMass Preview from Daily Collegian on Vimeo Video by Cameron McDonough.

Big crowd expected

For the first home game on Saturday, UMass is expecting a large crowd, especially from students.

As of Thursday afternoon, UMass has sold 24 buses for students to attend the game, according to Athletic Director John McCutcheon. McCutcheon said that UMass has arranged for 10 more student buses because of increasing demand, and considering students who will find their own way to Foxboro, McCutcheon is expecting about 2,000 students to be in attendance on Saturday.

Overall, about 10,000 tickets for the game have been sold, but McCutcheon is confident that many fans will walk up to the stadium to buy tickets on gameday, especially with warm weather expected.

Wegzyn is especially excited for the home-opener because of new home uniforms that are expected to be worn. While he wouldn’t give any details away of what those may look like, he said he was looking forward to playing at Gillette.

“I’m definitely excited to get over to Gillette,” Wegzyn said. “Hopefully we get the stadium packed in, get a lot of our UMass fans from over here as well as out near Boston to come and support, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.

 

2 Comments

2 Responses to “UMass prepares for home opener against Indiana”

  1. Mark Whitworth on September 7th, 2012 9:19 am

    AS A LONG TIME INDIANA FOOTBALL AND ESPECIALLY BASKETBALL FAN!I EXPECT THIS FOOTBALL GAME TO BE A GREAT ONE FOR BOTH TEAMS.I THINK WE ARE PRETTY EVENLY MATCHED AND LOOKING TO REBUILD OUR RESPECTIVE FOOTBALL PROGRAMS!MAY THE BEST TEAM WIN ON THE FIELD OF PLAY!MARK WHITWORTH/INDIANAPOLIS.

  2. Ken Jacobson Adjunct Anthropology on September 7th, 2012 9:58 am

    This article from the Boston Globe is definitely food for thought:

    By Bob Hohler
    Globe staff / September 6, 2012

    http://www.boston.com/sports/colleges/football/2012/09/06/umass-football-move-loaded-with-financial-risks/6QxE869C33xr10SiKPKzIK/story.html

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