Minutemen return home after three-game road stint

Mark Whipple hopes home-field advantage is a factor this weekend

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Minutemen return home after three-game road stint

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Mollie Walker, Assistant Sports Editor

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If home-field advantage is real, then the Massachusetts football team needs to utilize it this upcoming Saturday.

The Minutemen return home for the first time since their season opener to face Charlotte after three consecutive losses on the road. Beginning in Boston on Sept. 1, traveling to Statesboro, Georgia the following week and then finishing up in Miami, Florida on Sept. 15, UMass gave up 152 points while away from McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

“Road trips are not fun,” coach Mark Whipple said. “You’d rather be here, and our guys have played well here. We practice here, site lines and all that so I mean it’s just the next game but it’s good to be back at McGuirk.”

UMass’ (1-3) lone win this season was from its home opener against Duquesne on Aug. 25. After finishing off the last two games at McGuirk last season with wins over Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, the Minutemen currently ride a three-game winning streak at home.

“They just like playing here,” Whipple said. “I think Adam Breneman said it couple years ago, we’d rather play at McGuirk than anywhere else.

“I think that anyone who has played football here at UMass feels that way,” he added.

The 49ers (2-1) travel to Amherst for their first away game of the season after starting with three games at home.

Whipple mentioned how the team ran into a plethora of flight delays, bus troubles and other major inconveniences while traveling recently. He recalled how they arrived back at campus at the crack of dawn, leaving some players unable to get to sleep until 7:30 a.m.

Although it’s been three weeks since their usual home game routines, Whipple is sure that the comfort of being home will have some effect.

“But hey, here you’re going to be able to do a walk-through at 4:15 p.m., go through their own locker room, all those things play into it,” Whipple said. “And their families will be able to see them play and hopefully we’ll get a good crowd and we’ll play a good game.”

Since 2015, the Minutemen have built on their record at home each year. They registered a 1-5 record after 2015, improved to 2-4 after 2016 and then broke even at 3-3 last season. Quarterback Michael Curtis believes the team is “fired up” to finally be playing back at home.

The redshirt junior recalled coming back to campus around 6:45 a.m. after one of the road trips. He was swamped with homework and didn’t wake up until 4:00 p.m. the next day and stayed up through all hours of the night to get it finished. Curtis believes this weekend will see a lot of energy from UMass.

“Without a doubt [we will be more energized],” Curtis said. “Not commuting, traveling, getting hotels and then flying back and sitting on cramped flights or being in unfamiliar room [will help].

“Getting in the routine that we’re used to and then going out there and being comfortable, playing in front of the people that we love, that’s going to be big for us.”

Curtis says the team is ready to prove that “we’re the team that we said we are.”

“We know we have the players, the coaches and the talent to do it we just have to go out there and execute and show people,” Curtis added.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at MWalker2019.