UMass to open football season at Georgia Southern on Oct. 17

  • UMass Head Coach Walt Bell works with a group of players during practice, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 at McGuirk Stadium. The Minutemen will open the 2020 season at Georgia Southern on Oct. 17. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 10/8/2020 3:15:46 PM

The UMass football team has a kickoff date.

Now it just needs to determine its starting quarterback and depth chart.

The athletic department announced Thursday that the Minutemen will open its fall season at Georgia Southern on Oct. 17. The game will start at 4 p.m. and televised by ESPNU.

“Our players have trained hard in the weight room and in practice, and I’m excited they will now have the opportunity to compete at Georgia Southern in nine days,” UMass coach Walt Bell said in a statement. “We cannot thank the administrations at the University of Massachusetts and at Georgia Southern University enough for working together to create this chance to play.”

It’s been nearly three weeks since UMass announced its return to the fall season. The Minutemen were set on moving the season to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when other teams and conferences started playing this fall, UMass backpedaled.

The Minutemen have followed protocols and maintained safety measures to unsure a safe start to the fall season. As of Monday, the program had taken 2,300 coronavirus tests with only three positives. One of those positives came sometime between Sept. 28 and Monday. Details of that positive test have not been released.

All players, coaches and support staff continue to be tested multiple times per week and can increase testing to meet additional opponent requirements in order to play games, if necessary.

“Our team and staff have worked diligently to follow every protocol required of us and to create one of the safest environments to train within, in order to earn the opportunity to play games this fall,” Bell said in a statement.

The game will be held at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. No additional games have been announced. UMass intends to play between 3-6 games this season.

“I am very excited that our football program will have the opportunity to play football in 2020 and open its season in mid-October, as planned,” Athletic Director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “Since returning to campus in June, our coaching staff and student-athletes have been vigilant in following the policies and safety protocols instituted by the state, our university and athletics department. Further, they have put in an incredible amount of work both on and off the field for more than three months to prepare for competition this fall. By every measure, they have conducted themselves responsibly throughout this process, and I’m pleased we are able to reward them with games this season.”

Georgia Southern (2-1) beat Louisiana-Monroe 35-30 on Saturday. The Eagles were scheduled to host Appalachian State on Oct. 14, but that game was postponed on Tuesday due to the pandemic. Appalachian State shut down football operations following 19 positive tests within the program. The Mountaineers have not practiced since Sept. 26.

UMass and Georgia Southern have split their four meetings. Massachusetts defeated Georgia Southern at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, 55-20, on Oct. 21, 2017, and won the NCAA Division I-AA/FCS National Championship over the Eagles, 55-43, on Dec. 19, 1998.

“We’re excited about the opportunity for the Power of Paulson to be on display against UMass,” Georgia Southern Athletic Director Jared Benko said in a statement. “This game came together relatively quickly. ... This contest gives us an opportunity to break up a significant layoff between games after our App State game was postponed.”

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