Must-win game for Minutemen at Rhode Island
AMHERST - If the University of Massachusetts defeats Rhode Island Saturday, Kevin Morris will start looking into playoff scenarios.
He'll check scores and records and wonder how the NCAA committee will compare his team to other hopefuls.
But right now, he said he's not even thinking about the postseason or his team's chances of making it. UMass plays URI at 12:30 p.m. at Meade Stadium in Kingston, R.I.
"That's not what interests me. None of it matters if we don't win. If we win, who knows? I think we have a shot. That's what we want," he said. "If we get that W in the book, we'll start looking at who's winning and who's losing. Then you can start speculating."
Senior quarterback Kyle Havens, who was sporting a newly carved mohawk hairstyle, said the players have looked at their possibilities of earning one of the 10 at-large bids in the newly-expanded 20-team field.
"Guys talk about it and they think about it. That's fine. That doesn't worry me at all. It is interesting and it's crazy the stuff going on right now," said Havens, who is glad the Minutemen play early on Saturday so nobody will be noticing scores of other games before taking the field. "I don't want guys thinking about who beat who. We'll be the first ones to play and our goal is to win and if we win, we won't have to worry about anything else. It'll be out of our control."
Morris said the Minutemen should be looking at this game like a playoff game.
"This week is a playoff week. Let's be playoff ready. Let's play like a playoff team. There's no pressure. It should be fun. This is exciting, a chance to be in a playoff atmosphere," he said. "Should we win and get the invite we'll be ready to play at a high level. We'll need to play at a high level this week, that's for sure."
Senior wide receiver Anthony Nelson, who is hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in his career after transferring from Hofstra, is hoping he and the other seniors can extend their careers.
"It's a win or go home and even if we win, I don't know how all that's working getting into the playoffs and everything. It's like any other conference game, we know we have to go in there and win. But if we don't win, we do know our chances are very, very slim and if we do win, we help ourselves," he said. "It sits in the back of your head a little bit more knowing it could be your last one. I'm not ready to hang up my college career yet. I'd like to keep playing longer into November and hopefully into December."
Rhode Island doesn't figure to make it easy. The Rams are out of the playoff picture themselves at 4-6 (3-4 CAA), but can earn a .500 record in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Rhode Island has held its own against top opponents all season.
They upset New Hampshire (28-25) and Villanova (17-14) and stayed closer with Delaware (24-17) than the Minutemen did.
Junior captain Tyler Holmes said the Minutemen need to avoid getting tense despite the game's magnitude.
"It feels like a playoff game. The pressure is kinda on. We just have to play our game and stick to controlling what we can do," Holmes said. "I think we'll handle it well. I think we're loose. We're very confident in ourselves."