History will be made as the University of Massachusetts Minutemen and the Holy Cross Crusaders clash in the season opener for both teams on Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. at Fitton Field in Worcester, MA (TV: CBSCS).
For starters, the game will be the first ever home football game in Holy Cross' 115-year history played under the lights at Fitton Field. Secondly, and more notable, it marks the start of UMass' last FCS season, as the school will join the Middle Atlantic Conference in 2012, joining the ranks of Boston College and UConn as FBS programs.
Thursday night's meeting marks the 50th all-time between UMass and Holy Cross, but with the impending switch to Division I football, it could very well be the last for quite some time. UMass leads the all-time series, 23-21-5, with the Minutemen winning the last meeting between the schools, 31-7, last year on September 11.
Kyle Havens led the Minutemen passing attack, completing 25-of-38 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Jonathan Hernandez ran for 75 yards and a touchdown and John Griffith added 71 rushing yards and a score on the ground for UMass. Anthony Nelson led all Minutemen receivers with 103 receiving yards on eight catches.
Including last year's meeting, Holy Cross has lost eight straight games against UMass. However, in September of 2008, the Crusaders came close to knocking off the Minutemen, losing a thriller, 45-42, on a last-second 42-yard field goal from UMass kicker Armando Cuko to seal the game. UMass has outscored Holy Cross, 271-99, in 58 games. The last time Holy Cross beat UMass was in 1991, when the Crusaders came away with a 22-20 win.
Even more indicative of how lopsided this series has been as of late is the average score in the two team's meetings since the 1992 season, with UMass winning by an average score of 33-11.
Prior to 2008, the teams last met in 2007, which ended an 11-year span in which neither school had faced each other. The teams played every year from 1990-1995 and from 1970 through 1987.
The game may not be as lopsided this year, with UMass lacking an experienced quarterback. Brandon Hill, a redshirt freshman, won the starting job in training camp and will call the shots for the Minutemen under center.
While the passing game could be weak, the ground game won't be for UMass. Jonathan Hernandez, a senior tailback, is returning and ran for nearly 1,000 yards and nine scores as a junior last season. The Minutemen also boast a mostly-veteran offensive line and a national standout linebacker - Tyler Holmes - on defense.
Holy Cross boasts senior quarterback Kyle Taggart, who was chosen by Crusaders head coach Tom Gilmore as the team's starter at the end of camp. Taggart threw for 1,899 yards and 14 TDs last year in his first season under center for Holy Cross. Gilmore is 0-3 lifetime in games against UMass.
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