True freshman Brady Olson expected to start as UMass welcomes BC to McGuirk for 1st time since 1982

  • The UMass football team welcomes Boston College to McGuirk Alumni Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2021 5:41:42 PM

AMHERST — McGuirk Alumni Stadium hasn’t hosted the UMass football team — or the Minutemen’s fans — in 657 days. The team last played at home Nov. 23, 2019, against BYU.

They’ll host Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s the Eagles’ first visit to Amherst since 1982.

“It’ll be a great day here on this campus. It’ll be a great day for our program,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “It’ll be a great day for the state of Massachusetts. We’re excited for them to come over, we appreciate that.”

Massachusetts’ two Division 1 FBS teams last met in 2018, a 55-21 BC win. The Eagles have won the teams’ past 10 meetings dating back to the late 1970’s. UMass last beat Boston College in 1978, a 27-0 shutout in Amherst.

The two teams experienced nearly polar opposite openers. The Eagles dominated FCS foe Colgate, 51-0. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec threw for 303 yards and three scores, including an acrobatic catch and run by tight end Trae Barry.

“He will be a draft pick, I’m not sure were but he will be a draftable guy. The offense they’re running right now suits him well,” Bell said. “Phil is really strong, really hard to bring down, rugged.”

The Minutemen will also have to contend with receiver Zay Flowers, another potential draft pick. He had 135 yards on seven catches and a score in the opener.

“He’s got great ball skills, he’s great after the catch. Even though he’s on the smaller side he plays great at the catch point. You’ve got to know where he is,” Bell said. “Recognition, No. 1, being smart from a personnel standpoint. To thine own self be true, knowing who you are and giving that guy enough room to cover him from the top down.”

UMass (0-1), conversely, struggled against Pittsburgh and the Panthers’ defense last weekend in a 51-7 loss. It was the Minutemen’s 11th consecutive loss, the second longest active streak in the nation. Arizona, Old Dominion and Louisiana Monroe have dropped 12 straight. UMass is 1-16 since Bell took over in 2018.

But Boston College coach Jeff Hafley isn’t taking the Minutemen for granted.

“I know the record hasn’t shown for coach Bell, but I do think you’re going to see it start to take off,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s doing.”

Bell will be calling plays for the second game in a row. Who is executing those plays at quarterback has reverted to the same mystery from the spring. Tyler Lytle, who started against Pitt but took 10 hits and five sacks, missed Wednesday’s practice because he was beat up. Bell said he’d be a game-time decision against BC, though Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported Friday night that Lytle would not play in Saturday’s game and instead, true freshman Brady Olson would get the first start of his collegiate career.

The Minutemen will face an Eagles defense that favors four down linemen and plays a mix of Cover 3 (corners and a safety divide the field into thirds and patrol zones), Cover 1 (man coverage with a deep safety) with some “Tampa Two,” defined by two deep safeties and cornerbacks taking away short throws.

“The matchup, this is one of the most perfect matchup situations for us,” UMass tight end Taylor Edwards said. “We’ve got a great game plan for it. I think we’re going to match up really well against these guys.”

Schemes aside, BC’s visit presents a gargantuan opportunity for the Minutemen. Power 5 teams rarely travel to Group of 5 venues. UMass hasn’t hosted one at McGuirk since it joined the FBS in 2012. Games against teams of that caliber typically occurred at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

“Being in the G5 my entire life, at Southern Miss. we were lucky enough to have Virginia come to our place. At Arkansas State we had Missouri come to our place,” Bell sadi. “Any time you’re a G5 team and a P5 team comes to your place, it’s a big deal. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

The Minutemen believe they can seize it.

“The thought of us going to upset a big, Power 5 school is what anyone could ever wish for,” Edwards said. “It’s not even the fact that it’s the ACC, we have such a hunger to prove to the world, to the country, that we are here, we can compete with anyone, we can do this.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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