AMHERST — In all his years coaching in the upper Midwest, University of Massachusetts coach Charley Molnar never coached a game at Camp Randall Stadium.
While many coaches will downplay any personal excitement about seeing a certain venue, Molnar was excited to visit one of college football’s signature spots. UMass opens its season Saturday at noon at Wisconsin.
“I’m excited to go there and check it out,” he said. “As a coach and a fan of college football, any time you go into a storied place or historic place, I really appreciate the moment and how hard you have to work to get to that opportunity as a coach, to step into some of the greatest stadiums and play some of the greatest teams in college football.”
“It’s a great feeling,” added Molnar, who saw quite a few historic stadiums during his tenure as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. “As a young boy, as a player, then growing up as a coach, I’d wonder if I’d ever get the opportunity to play in these places. It’s been great.”
Molnar listed three more places he would like to see.
“Texas, I’d really like to go there. We’re going to go to Florida (2016) and that’s one,” he said. “I’d say Alabama would be the other one.”
Molnar paused when asked if there was a venue that he’d been to that turned out to be better than expected.
“A place that probably delivered more than I thought was Texas Tech,” he said.
LITTLE MAN, BIG LEG — Sophomore kicker Blake Lucas didn’t break 40 yards last year. The 5-foot-8 Georgia native hit a 39-yard field goal against Buffalo.
“Last year all I kicked was a 39, that’s the biggest we ever tried,” Lucas said. “I’m looking for the opportunity to hit some big field goals this year.”
In high school, Lucas made a 48-yard kick and was just wide right on a 52-yard try. He’s made a handful longer than 50 in practice this year.
“I’m a smaller kicker. If I go out there and hit a 55-yarder, it would shock some people,” said Lucas, who said some teammates have nicknamed him Golden Toe. “I’m a lot more confident this year. I’ve been consistent in the scrimmages.”
The UMass record for longest field goal made is 52 yards, a distance that’s been hit twice, but not in almost 35 years. Denis Gagnon made one against New Hampshire in 1971 and Sandro Vitiello hit from there against Boston College in 1978.
TV NOTE — Many area Comcast subscribers don’t get the Big Ten Network in standard definition as part of their standard package. But due to an odd quirk, the Big Ten Network in high definition (885 on most Comcast packages) is part of the package. The Big Ten Network will carry UMass’ season opener.