Mark Whipple, UMass set for spring football game

Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2014
AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts football program wasn’t trying to simulate a midweek Mid-American Conference game when it scheduled the annual spring football game for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The last time Mark Whipple coached UMass, there were neither lights, nor turf at McGuirk Stadium. Having both available now, Whipple made spring practice earlier in the calendar and later on the clock. With Easter and Patriots Day making for a long weekend, Whipple decided to go midweek.

“I was hoping that it would be a night game and that we would maybe have an impact on the students a little bit more. We’ve always practiced pretty good at night,” Whipple said. “With Easter and Patriots day, it’s a long weekend, the schedule worked out.”

Whipple said it could help prepare the team for its first ever Wednesday game.

“I didn’t know when I set it up that we were going to get a Wednesday night MAC game against Ball State” on Nov. 12, Whipple said. “It’s a little bit of practice for that.”

Unlike in some previous seasons where only uniforms differentiated the spring game from a practice, Whipple said there will be an actual game pitting the first-string offense against the first-string defense, and No. 2 offense vs. No. 2 defense. Special teams will be more simulated than live to avoid injury.

Whipple and defensive coordinator Tom Masella won’t be involved in play calling as the younger staff members will be divided to coach each side. Whipple and Masella will float between the two squads allowing the staff’s younger coaches to make more decisions.

“It’s always been good for the staff to have a say in those things,” Whipple said. “It gives me a chance to be around the defensive kids a little bit more than I have all spring. I’ll go back and forth (between the two sidelines).”

Whipple was hoping to get a chance to see how his players reacted to situations closer to a normal game.

“Hopefully it will be close. You want to see how people handle success and how they handle adversity,” he said. “I just want them to compete and have some fun.”

Overall he was pleased with his first spring back in charge.

“They’ve been good when they’ve been ready to play and they’ve been a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s been a couple of days when they haven’t been, but they got through it, but I feel like they’ll be excited tomorrow. They’ve improved quite a bit since spring break. I think they certainly have a sense of what we’re looking for. They got a feel for myself, the coaching staff and our expectations.”

NOTES — The game will be streamed online through the UMass website with Cody Chrusciel and Matt Goldstein calling the game.

Parking lots will open for tailgating at 5 p.m.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage