On Saturday, September 8, the UMass football team played Indiana University at Gillette Stadium for their season home opener. This wasn’t the first game that the team played at Gillette (they played University of New Hampshire there in the “Colonial Clash” last season) but it was the first of many games to be played there this season. Because UMass moved up to the bigger Mid-American Conference this season, all home games will now be played at Gillette instead of the McGuirk Alumni Stadium on campus which is where they used to be played.
I was one of the students who went to the game. UMass offered students a $10 “Tailgate and Transportation” package to the game, and so many students took them up on it that they needed to add more buses. The system was well organized; we received multiple emails giving us the information for the transportation. UMass Transit had special buses that picked students up in the residential areas to drive us to McGuirk, where we picked up the tickets we’d ordered online. This was a nice touch, except my bus was twenty-five minutes later than advertised! Regardless, we got there okay. At McGuirk, we also could either buy breakfast from Baby Berk, an awesome food truck that drives around campus, or we could use a meal plan swipe to get breakfast. I chose to use the meal swipe, and there was a good selection of food. I thought that this was nice of UMass to feed us before we got on the buses.
Once the buses left McGuirk, it was about a two-hour drive to Gillette Stadium. I passed the time by talking to my friend. When we got to Gillette, there was a pep rally with the marching band and the cheerleaders. There were tents where you could apply temporary tattoos and pick up programs. We got there two hours before the game started, so my friend and I passed some time by walking around Patriot Place, the outdoor mall attached to Gillette. When we went inside the stadium (they had kindly given us a map so we knew where to go) we discovered that there was a student tailgate! The tailgate involved a DJ, cool prizes, and best of all, food catered by UMass Catering. You could eat whatever you wanted. This was all included in the student package.
Shortly before the game started, we went inside the stadium. The student section was behind Indiana’s field goal. There were a lot of students there, and everyone was really excited to be there. The ever-fantastic UMass Marching Band entertained the crowd before the game. Then Bill Cosby, a UMass alum, did the coin toss! Everyone was really impressed that he was there, and it was a cool part of the experience.
UMass scored early in the first quarter, which got us hopeful for the prospects of the rest of the game, but unfortunately Indiana continued to score. The weather seemed to reflect our mood: it would be sunny one minute, then ominous gray clouds would float overhead and it would start to rain, and then the rain would stop and the sun would come out again. At the start of the third quarter, it absolutely started to pour and most of us left our seats to take cover. After the game, we drove home in a crazy lightning storm.
UMass ultimately lost the game 45-6, but going to Gillette was a really fun experience! I would definitely recommend that students go at least once this year. It’s an all-day affair (I left my dorm at 10 a.m. and didn’t get back until 10 that night) but well-worth it. It was clear that UMass wanted us to enjoy ourselves, and I loved the atmosphere of school spirit at the game. The next game at Gillette is September 29 against Ohio, and you should go!