"Now, even if the defense is on the field, no matter what, I have to be ready. We could get a pick-six for a score and I could have to be out there at any time," Violette said. "It keeps my head in the game more. I'm much more involved in the game."
UMass placekicker perfect this season
AMHERST - Last year, when the University of Massachusetts football team moved the ball over an opponent's 35-yard line, then-freshman punter Caleb Violette could exhale a bit, knowing the Minutemen wouldn't need his immediate services.
"I could put my helmet down because I didn't need to be ready to go out there at a moment's notice," he said.
But after winning the placekicker job in camp, Violette is constantly ready to punt, kick a field goal or kick an extra point.
"Now, even if the defense is on the field, no matter what, I have to be ready. We could get a pick-six for a score and I could have to be out there at any time," he said. "It keeps my head in the game more. I'm much more involved in the game."
Violette won the kicker job in camp over Brendon Levengood, who handles kickoffs, and Igor Garcia. Violette has made UMass coach Kevin Morris' decision to pick him look good. He's the only kicker in the Colonial Athletic Conference who hasn't missed a field goal or extra point. He's 6-for-6 on field goals and 16-for-16 on extra points. He's one of only six kickers in the Championship Subdivision who haven't missed a field goal and of those six, nobody has made more of them than Violette.
"He's been steady," Morris said. "We want to score touchdowns, but we know we can kick field goals when we need them."
Violette said he has felt confident as he lines up a kick.
"I feel like I'm in a good rhythm," Violette said. "As long as I stay focused and stay on the basics, I'll be all right."
Violette has yet to be called on to try a long one. His 37-yarder against William & Mary on Sept. 4 is his season-best. He said he's capable of longer if called upon.
"I feel comfortable that from 45 and in I could go out and make it 95 percent of the time," Violette said. "From 50 in, I'm still pretty comfortable. Outside of 50, I'd be stretching my leg a little bit at this point. I'm still trying to get back to my full distance of kicking."
IHNE EXPECTED BACK - Morris said after the Minutemen's Oct. 2 win over Towson that he hoped to use the team's bye week to get healthier. The extra week off came at the right time for senior center John Ihne, who is expected to return to action this weekend. Quinton Sales started the last two games in his absence.
SELLOUT POSSIBLE - A perfect storm of events could lead to a rare sellout for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. homecoming football game. McGuirk Stadium's official attendance is 17,000. "We still have a couple thousand tickets left, but we're expecting a sellout or near sellout," said Chris Celona, the UMass ticket office's sales coordinator.
Since they last played in Amherst, the Minutemen have emerged as a top-10 team and a contender for both a conference crown and playoff berth. The buzz around their success alone would likely have been enough to increase the crowd. The homecoming game usually gets a boost in attendance as well from returning alumni.
But the fact that many former marching band members are expected to attend to honor director George Parks, who died prior to UMass' Sept. 18 game at Michigan, will likely expand the crowd even further.
There will be a memorial service for Parks at 11:30 a.m. at the Mullins Center. The band's halftime shows Saturday and Oct. 23 at Gillette Stadium will both be designed to honor Parks.
DIABETES WALK - For the second straight year, UMass players and coaches are planning to participate in Sunday's Walk for the Cure fundraiser at 10 a.m. at Six Flags in Agawam for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Morris and his wife Rebecca are co-chairs of JDRF's Western Mass. chapter.
Anyone interested in participating can go online to walk.jdrf.org.