Republican: Gillette Game Will Be Cool - UMass Athletics

Republican: Gillette Game Will Be Cool

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Ron Chimelis has this story in the Springfield Republican about UMass venture to Gillette Stadium.

The University of Massachusetts football coach played a high school game at Giants Stadium more than 25 years ago.

"The place holds 75,000 people. There were about 25,000 there. There might as well have been 10,'' Kevin Morris said. "But for a high school kid, it was fantastic. The thrill is in the experience.''

On Saturday, UMass plays New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. A great rivalry is about to be taken to another level.

Whether the players say so or not, a UMass football game at Gillette will be really cool

Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 5:17 PM     Updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 5:24 PM
Michigan 42, UMass 37Massachusetts tailback Jonathan Hernandez (22), who had a strong game at Michigan, says Saturday's game against New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium is just another game against a key opponent.
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The University of Massachusettsfootball coach played a high school game at Giants Stadium more than 25 years ago.

"The place holds 75,000 people. There were about 25,000 there. There might as well have been 10,'' Kevin Morris said.

"But for a high school kid, it was fantastic. The thrill is in the experience.''

On Saturday, UMass plays New Hampshire at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. A great rivalry is about to be taken to another level.

Not that the Minutemen all want to admit it. The nature of football, with its requisite emphasis on toughness, does not lend itself to gee-whiz enthusiasm.

In a sport where a ballgame is treated as a mission, guys just don't feel right, rhapsodizing about their surroundings..

"It's just another game. I try to treat every game the same,'' said running back Jonathan Hernandez, a junior from Leominster.

Really, Jonathan? Just another game?

Ask a young pitcher what it's like to step on the mound at Fenway, and he'll gush about the thrill of a lifetime.

But Hernandez' view is not uncommon. It is reflective of a sport where smashmouth ball leaves little room for going gaga over going big-time.

He says the real bigness of this game is not found in the venue, even though it's home to his favorite NFL team, but in the opponent. 

"It doesn't matter where we play New Hampshire. It's a big game,'' Hernandez said.

Given how his team is trying to bounce back from a bad loss to Richmond, he may be right.

Even so, UMass-at-Gillette is hardly just another game. Darren Thellen understands. 

The UMass safety once nearly set foot on Gillette's hallowed FieldTurf.

"My senior year at Brockton High was the first year they played high school Super Bowls there. We lost in the playoffs,'' the redshirt sophomore said.

Make no mistake. Playing at Gillette is very, very cool.

"Our field (at Brockton) holds about 15,000, but our biggest crowd was about 8,000,'' Thellen said.

"Playing at Michigan was a great experience, but I think it will be more exciting, playing at Gillette. It's closer to home, plus I'm a big Pats fan.''

Ah, Michigan. There will not be 110,187 people Saturday, as there were when UMass was in Ann Arbor Sept. 18.

In fact, it's a mystery how many will show up. Judging from early sales, the crowd looks sure to surpass the 23,454 who saw the UMass 2006 NCAA semifinal at Montana, a school record for a game against another Division I-AA team.

Morris thinks a crowd of more than 30,000 is very possible. But however many seats are filled, it will still be UMass in an NFL venue.

Totally cool.

"You couldn't ask for a better rivalry game, and in Foxborough,'' Morris said. "For us it's a thrill. We're excited.''

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