Notebook: UMass hoping to make history at Notre Dame

Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2015

AMHERST — Outside of the two programs playing in the game, Saturday’s matchup between Notre Dame and winless UMass looks like a blowout in the making. Las Vegas odds have the Minutemen as a 281/2-point underdog in the 3:30 p.m. game in South Bend, Indiana.

At No. 6 in The Associated Press Top 25, Notre Dame is the highest ranked team the Minutemen have ever played. UMass played at No. 7 Kansas State in 2003 and lost 38-7. Despite the long odds, the Minutemen are looking at it as an opportunity.

“If you win this game you’ll be remembered forever. If you’re remembered out here it’s a big deal. Being remembered is something we all, especially the senior class, want to be a part of,” UMass senior cornerback Randall Jette said. “Everybody wants to leave their mark. We don’t just want to be the first I-A team. We want to be the first I-A that did something.”

Senior linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox agreed.

“We know what a great storied program they have there. If we’re able to win there, it would be a great thing,” he said.

For Notre Dame (3-0), the goal is to stay out of trouble. The Fighting Irish beat No. 14 Georgia Tech last week and are at No. 11 Clemson next week. In a season where Notre Dame has lost five starters, including Heisman candidate quarterback Malik Zaire, to season-ending injuries, many pundits are looking at this game as a chance for the new starters to get some experience and get more comfortable. At his Tuesday press conference, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was asked if playing UMass (0-2) was “something of a relief” and whether he planned to use this game to get some reserve players some experience.

“These are the games that concern me the most where everybody else thinks that they are going to be easy games. This is going to be a difficult game. UMass will play very well. They have already proven that they can play with top-notch teams in Temple,” Kelly said. “So I know what we need to do. We’ve got to play well against them. So it’s not a breather for me. And I don’t count anything. It would be nice that all those things happen, but I don’t go into the game thinking that way. I go into the game; that we have got to be prepared for everything.”

MOLNAR’S GAME — This was supposed to be a reunion game. Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar would take his UMass team to face his old employer Kelly, his longtime boss at Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

But Molnar won’t be there when the Minutemen and Irish meet at Notre Dame Stadium. He’s now the wide receivers coach at Idaho after being dismissed at UMass following the 2013 season. But the game he helped make happen has become one of the most anticipated dates on the Minutemen’s schedule.

Without Molnar, the game probably doesn’t happen. Outside of the service academies, with whom Notre Dame has long-standing rivalries, the Irish usually play at most one non-Power 5 Conference team per year and there are countless teams eager to get the payday and the national television exposure. But Molnar’s relationship with Kelly helped UMass secure the game and the $1 million guarantee to play it.

RECRUIT — According to the, Taylor Edwards, a tight end from Delaware who had previously committed to UMass and then reopened his recruiting, has once again pledged to play football for the Minutemen.

MISCELLANEOUS — On Tuesday, fans will be able to look back at Notre Dame’s preparation for UMass as well as some highlights from the game, on “A Season With Notre Dame Football” on Showtime. The series, which is similar to HBO’s Hard Knocks, is a running documentary on the Irish’s football season.

The game will air on Ch. 81 on Sirius. It had to be moved to accommodate the papal address.

Former Boston College Heisman trophy winner Doug Flutie will be the color analyst for NBC.

ANOTHER AWARD NOMINATION — Add the William V. Campbell Trophy to the list of postseason honors that UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapfel is a candidate for. On Thursday he was selected as a semifinalist for the award that honors athletic and academic achievement.

According the UMass press release: “candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. The class is selected each year by the National Football Foundation Awards Committee.

Frohnapfel, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in business administration and sport management, has a 3.67 GPA.

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at


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