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Saturday, December 03, 2022

When Ross Comis entered the huddle, the game was already over.

He was responsible for mop-up duty with his UMass Minutemen down 62-20 against Notre Dame in South Bend.

There were only about eight minutes left, but that wasn’t going to deter him.

On his first pass attempt of the game, a dart to running back Lorenzo Woodley gave the Minutemen 9 yards.

From there, Comis picked apart the Fighting Irish defense, completing 8-of-8 passes and capping off the drive with a touchdown pass in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus, a giant mural behind the stadium’s stands.

Playing in front of the 80,795 fans at Notre Dame Stadium was, at the time, the biggest crowd Comis had ever played for.

That’ll change on Saturday.

“It was a dream as a child to play in The Swamp,” he said, “so you see the schedule and Florida’s your first game, you circle that.”

But Florida and its 90,000 fans present a daunting challenge for UMass, with the Gators entering as 36.5-point favorites.

While the Gators are coming off a season in which they made the SEC Championship game, the Minutemen are coming off a 3-9 campaign that included wins over Florida International, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo.

Nevertheless, Comis isn’t afraid. After all, Georgia Southern came to Gainesville in 2013 and left with a massive paycheck and a win. So why not UMass?

“We’re going into this game prepared to win,” Comis said.

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“I don’t think anyone should go into a game thinking they’re underdogs and the (other) team is better. We’re ready to come in and we think we can win this game.”

His teammate, linebacker Shane Huber, agrees.

“We’re gonna be facing some really talented players,” he said.

“But as long as we’re executing our fundamentals and assignments, we’re gonna be all right.”

UMass head coach Mark Whipple was also confident, but incessantly praised Florida’s talent at just about every position.

He was especially high on sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway.

“Callaway scares you,” he said. “We don’t have the guys Alabama has, and he runs through those guys like sliced cheese.”

But despite his praise for Florida, Whipple said that his team is confident and ready to compete.

He added that playing Florida first has actually been a great motivational tool.

When his players slack off in practice, he said he can remind them that if they do that against UF, they’ll get embarrassed.

“I think there’s some advantages that way,” he said.

He also praised Comis, citing the quarterback’s experience against Notre Dame as well as against Colorado as reasons he can perform well in The Swamp.

“He’s played well,” Whipple said. “He’s been in the system with us for three years now, and we’re excited to see him play.”

Comis has performed when embedded in a hostile crowd and against a talented defense.

His 8-for-8 passing might have been against Notre Dame’s backups, but it was still impressive considering the high-caliber recruits the Fighting Irish bring in regularly.

Now, he’s ready for a new challenge.

And this time, rather than mopping up, he’ll take the first snap.

“We’re prepared for them to bring their A-game,” he said, “and we’re gonna try to do the same.”

Contact Ethan Bauer at ebauer@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @ebaueri

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