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BYU celebrates a touchdown against UMass, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachussetts.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — At the team hotel the night before BYU’s game against UMass and then in the locker room at Gillette Stadium before kickoff, the Cougars received a visit from a familiar face.

Former BYU star Kyle Van Noy, now the starting middle linebacker for the New England Patriots, dropped by to talk to the current Cougar coaches and players before leaving for Tennessee, where the Patriots will play the Titans on Sunday.

Van Noy was in his element, of course, because he plays his home games at Gillette Stadium, where BYU beat UMass, 35-16.

“It was nice to have his presence, to have a guy who loves BYU and loves his team. It was nice to see him connect with all of our young men,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “It was really good for our freshmen especially to see him and see how much he loves BYU. I’m always thankful to have our alumni be around our team.”

Senior running back Matt Hadley enjoyed seeing one of his former teammates.

“I was (at BYU) Kyle’s junior year, my freshman year, in 2012,” he said. “It seems like forever ago. It was cool to see him again at his atmosphere. It’s cool to see our alumni guys who have done it so well for so long.”

After the game, Sitake and a few BYU players stood at the same postgame podium where Patriots coach Bill Belichick and star quarterback Tom Brady field questions after New England games.

“It was amazing. Beautiful stadium, beautiful atmosphere,” said freshman quarterback Zach Wilson. “I loved being on that field, just knowing that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have played on this field along with many other amazing teams is a cool experience. It’s something I’ll never forget. We’re so lucky as players to come and do something like this.”

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Sitake appreciated the support from the several thousand BYU fans who made the trip to Gillette Stadium.

“It was awesome. They made a lot of noise,” he said. “Everywhere we go, it’s nice to have fans, even when you’re two time zones away on the East Coast. It was really cool to see our fans.”

The lowest attended game of the independence era for BYU was 12,571 at New Mexico State in 2012. With a total crowd of 14,082 Saturday, this was the second-lowest attendance in a game during independence.