August 30, 2012; East Hartford, CT, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Randall Jette (17) blocks a pass intended for Connecticut Huskies tight end Sean McQuillan (49) during the fourth quarter at Rentschler Field. Connecticut won the game 37-0. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-US Presswire
In anticipation of Saturday's game, I have exchanged some questions with the proprietor of the appropriately named UMass Football Blog. His answers to my questions are below, and my answers to his questions will be posted there.
1. My first question to you is about UMass's unusual stadium setup. The Minutemen are playing their home games at Gillette Field, which is nearly 100 miles from campus. What do you and other fans think about this arrangement? Also, it's not entirely clear whether UMass plans to ultimately upgrade its on-campus stadium to FBS standards. Any idea how long this arrangement will be in place?
Mr. Kraft offered to have UMass play at Gillette rent free. Parking for the games is also free. UMass would not have been able to go FBS without this arrangement, as the State of Massachusetts has no interest in fronting us $80 million for a new stadium. UMass currently has a four year contract that all games will be played in Gillette. The Minutemen's old stadium in Amherst is slated for a new athletic training facility and an upgrade of the pressbox. I have not heard any plans to change its 17,000 seat capacity. Unless the state legislature springs for a new facility, which seems highly unlikely, it's reasonable that post-2016, UMass will continue to play most games in Gillette and maybe one or two in Amherst. UMass fans would, of course, like an on-campus 50,000 seat stadium, however, that does not seem even remotely feasible at this time. So, we need to love what we have.
2. Obviously, what stands out about your opening game against UConn is the relative ineptitude of the offense, gaining only 59 yards and 3 first downs. Other than facing the IU defense, what do you think can be done to improve the offense? Which players will be the key to any such turnaround?
Our freshman-laden offense was a bad matchup to UConn's veteran defense. On that side of the ball we we took an historic ass-whipping. That was the lowest offensive output since we were held to 45 total yards by UNH in 1976. The obvious thing to improve would be to run the ball. The Minutemen did not get any push from the offensive line. I don't know if our running backs are any good or not because there was absolutely no holes to run to. Our red-shirt freshman QB Mike Wegzyn was starting his first game and looked visibility nervous. He needs to run the offense and make better decisions than he did last Saturday. Our three WR's were also starting their first game. Marken Michel, Alan Williams and true freshman Tajae Sharpe need to make some football plays to sustain some drives.
3. Based on what I have read at your site, you seemed reasonably pleased with the defense. Which players should IU be worried about on the defensive side of the ball?
The UMasss defense was on the field for a mind boggling 70 plays and 38+ minutes. We did get three turnovers. UConn only scored 23 points against what is essentially an FCS defense (all the starters were with the team last year). Kevin Byrne DE 6-2 290 and Perry McIntyre ILB 6-1 240 were All-CAA last year and are the heart of the defense. I expect UMass' defense to be as good as, or better than, Indiana State's that you faced last week.
4. What is the story on Kellen Pagel? I see that he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome during August. Is that why he missed the opener, and if so, is he expected to get the starting nod when he returns? What are your thoughts on the quarterback situation generally?
Kellen Pagel is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome and is out for the foreseeable future. A.J Doyle is the backup to Wegzyn and a true freshman. He saw some game action against UConn. UMass has had poor quarterback play two of the last three years in FCS. We really need to upgrade that position to be competitive in FBS.
5. This is UMass's first home game in Foxborough. What sort of attendance should we expect?
I have no idea. We drew 34,000 and 22,000 for our last two games at Gillette. Half of that was from UNH fans. Coach Molnar said the turnout would probably reflect somewhat on how we did at UConn. Since we got crushed, it could effect the gate. I would guess somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000.
Thanks, and good luck Saturday!