Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutemen host first Homecoming game at Gillette

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Senior safety Darren Thellen has been a part of a few Homecoming games in his career with the Massachusetts football team. But his final Homecoming affair might have a different feel than in the past.

The venue has switched from McGuirk Alumni Stadium, located on campus, to Gillette Stadium, which is roughly a two-hour drive from Amherst. Coupled with only an 8,321-fan turnout for UMass’ last home game on Sept. 29, Saturday’s matchup with Bowling Green could potentially be a step down from Homecoming games in the past.

“You just hope that most of all the fans come out for Homecoming games, especially being my last Homecoming game,” Thellen said. “I’m gonna have a lot of family and friends coming out for the game, so you just hope (for) as much people as you can because in the past, Homecoming has been pretty big at McGuirk so hopefully we can fill up as much stands as we can in Gillette Stadium.”

Minutemen redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn, one of the team’s captains for the contest, acknowledged the difficult commute to Foxboro, but is still hopeful that the student body will show its support of the team.

“I’m hoping we get a lot of the students to go out there and decide to come out and support for Homecoming since it’s a big deal,” Wegzyn said. “It’s hard having it be so far away and not right on campus so everyone can come out, but I think we’ll get a good amount of fans that decide to take the buses out and support.”

UMass (0-6, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) is coming off its bye week in which UMass coach Charley Molnar stressed getting back to fundamentals. Molnar, who enters his first Homecoming game as a head coach, expects the extra practice to reap benefits out on the field, particularly in the team’s tackling and blocking.

“I just think our guys will have a greater sense of confidence to do as they were coached,” Molnar said. “I think they really have always been stressed the fundamentals since our first day out on the practice field. But sometimes when you get into (the) season, the fundamentals slip and guys start doing things the wrong way. Now that we’ve got them back on track fundamentally … I think it’ll be beneficial.”

Thellen said the extra preparation time allowed him to watch more film, which should help patch up some of the team’s mishaps.

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

“Just seeing your mistakes and correcting them, it should lead to having less mistakes on the field and being a lot more crisper as a player,” Thellen said.

The Minutemen will have their hands full as the Falcons (4-3, 2-1 MAC) come in with the top scoring defense in the MAC. Bowling Green allows an average of 19.1 points per game and 330.6 yards per game, both tops in the conference.

“They’re a really good defense,” Wegzyn said. “Obviously, they played Florida really well at the start of the year. It’s a great defense we’re going up against and I’m welcoming the challenge.”

The Minutemen offense hit a road block last time out in their 52-14 defeat at Western Michigan. UMass mustered 218 total yards of offense – its lowest output since its opening loss to Connecticut – while the Broncos torched the Minutemen for 551 total yards.

Molnar wanted to get back on the field last week, saying how difficult it is for a team to enter a bye week after a crushing defeat.

“It just eats away at you,” he said. “I wish we could’ve played last Saturday on a lot of fronts, but nevertheless it also gives us a chance to clean the slate from those past six weeks and really hit the second season.”

The players are ready to get back to business.

“It definitely feels like we’ve been off for about a month now,” Thellen said. “We can’t wait to get back on the field and play against another team rather than practicing against each other for two weeks without going actually live against another team.”

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.


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