Sunday, September 19, 2010 - Andy Andersen
The Wolverines prevailed against the game Minutemen from a Football Championship Conference (FCS), which is of course considered much inferior to the Bowl Championship Conference (FBS) to which the Wolverines belong.
No one told the Minutemen that they were inferior on a football field or if someone did they obviously didn’t believe it, nor were they cowed by the throng of 110,187, most of whom they vastly disappointed by seemingly scoring at will. They tweaked the Wolverine’s tail, and pulled out huge patches of defensive hair. Ouch!
In some ways the two teams mirror each other in that both display efficient offenses, and shall we say, unpredictable, and sometimes unproductive defenses. M’s defense gave up 439-yards of offense, and UMass yielded 535. UMass scored on 6 of 11 possessions with only one 3 and out. Ugh!
But it is only fair to add the D did do enough to enable the victory as close as it was. For example, Kovacs' late second quarter strip and recovery jumpstarted the Wolverine’s two TD come back very late in the second quarter. Denard hit Darryl Stonum twice for TDs in a 45 second span.
The Minutemen made a fine offensive effort that vastly irritated the vast majority Michigan fans who had their heart set on seeing a Delaware State type blow out which would unleash the backup QBs, and other talents seldom used. UMass is a much better team than Delaware State. This is much to their credit that they did not let that happen.
It was another David v. Goliath story, which, with an unfavorable ending for the Wolverines, would have been in the loss to Appy State category. Can you imagine the roars of delight when that sort of disaster would have been announced in Columbus and other nether regions, and the catcalls from other detractors, at home and away. There will be enough of that with this type of win.
The Wolverines did manage to diversify their offense some with Denard successfully chucking passes down field. He completed passes for 36, 43, 66, and 46-yards. He continues to amaze, completing 71% of his passes, hitting 10 of 14 for 241 and 3 TDs. He rushed for 104-yards, accounting for 345-yards total in his worst performance of the year. That is still an admirable accomplishment in spite of an early interception and a couple of bobbles of snaps. Again he was the most valuable Wolverine offensively. But this time he had some significant help from his friends. Together they produced the 535-yards of offense.
Michael Shaw had a career day rushing. He toted 12 times for 126 yards and 3 TDs. Some of these were outstanding runs, leaping dodging, powering. He said in the presser after that he had been advised to hesitate a little in hitting the hole. He understandably doesn’t like to linger because of the size of the linemen, but he did that today and it paid off with a 50-yard run in the fourth, and an earlier 34-yard TD run. His was a career day.
Darryl Stonum caught 3 for 121-yards for 2 TDs, and Kelvin Grady caught a 43-yard pass to set up Michigan’s first TD. This helped establish some offensive momentum early in the game when M was spinning its offensive wheels. He also had a 15-rush. Junior Hemmingway returned from injury and caught a 36-yard pass. He looks bigger than ever, and will be of substantial use to the receiver corps.
Mike Martin had six solo tackles, and two TFLs. Some others had six stops also, but Martin was particularly conspicuous and timely in his contributions to the cause. Kovacs was outstanding with a strip and recovery and 11 tackles. Otherwise the defense looked lost on occasion and out of position.
Comments after the game by Kovacs indicated that UMass finessed the defense, not overpowering them, but giving them moves they had not seen as yet. The defense seemed unable to produce third and outs, UMass receivers were wide open in the end zone, and the soft zone was ineffective on third and fourth and ones. UMass just threw underneath when they needed a critical first down, or slipped a back up the middle or outside around end. The Wolverines did not seem to play defense with much emotion at times. But they did enough to win, if just barely.
Coach Rodriguez summarized it like this: “…we had to score a lot. The strange part is we had better focus than the week before. It certainly wasn’t there today in a lot of phases, and hopefully after we watch the film we can get it corrected. One thing I can tell you is that in the locker room the guys knew it. They were happy with the win, but it will be about as quiet a locker room as you will ever see.” RR also pointed out some offensive mistakes and said that the special teams were awful.
And they were. Special teams were awful. The punting average was 16.5-yards. The punter dropped a snap. KO’s were consistently too short, and coverage was sloppy, and another field goal was missed, this time by the replacement kicker, Broekhuizen, who did make all the EPs. The punt receiver didn’t field punts that he let roll the wrong way, and he jumped at one that he should have let fly by, touched it, and it caromed all over the place and finally became property of the Minutemen, confirmed by review. Unless some progress is made in this area, it is going to cost games without question. We gave UMass good field position often, and it burned us.
Non-starters who played were (in no order): Stokes, Jackson, Lewan (replaced Huyge), T. Robinson (dropped a pass he could have caught), Gallon, Hemingway, Grady, Black, Patterson, and Campbell.
The game opened with UMass producing an 11-play, 53-yard drive and hitting a 29-yard FG. M 0, UMass 3.
Robinson threw an interception, his first of the year, but the defense held, and M then went 93-yards in 8 plays. Kelvin Grady made a great catch of a 43-yard pass to get them going, and Michael Shaw plowed over from the one to make it M 7, UMass 3.
The Minutemen produced a pair of long scoring drives, 9 plays for 67-yards and nine plays for 79-yards. M 7-UMass 17. The season seemed to be slipping away. Where was that blow out?
Then Robinson produced a little magic again with the help of Darryl Stonum in 45 seconds at the end of the second quarter. First a 66-yard pass play to Stonum who scored on a magnificent run after a little screen, and another 9-yard pass for a TD to Stonum after a 5 play, 55-yard drive. M 21-UMass 17. Needless to say this was stunning production.
To start the third quarter, they did it again, with Michael Shaw scoring from 34-yards out on a great run, to complete a 69-yard drive. M 28-UMass 17.
Robinson drove them 94-yards in 8 plays, and scoring on an 8-yard run. M 35-Umass 17.
M got one more scoring drive of 72-yards with Shaw ramming over from 4-yards out. To make it M 42-UMass 24, after UMass produced a 70-yard, 15 play scoring drive of their own.
UMass produced two more scores to make the final: M 42-UMass 37. One was the result of a blocked punt, and there were some subs in on defense late, but the pass defense looked lost at times with poor communication.
This win has caused almost as much adverse comment as a loss would have. Some Michigan fan hopes have fallen as fast as the Hindenburg, with dismal predictions now replacing unrealistic aspirations.
Concern is that the same thing is going to happen as last year, early wins and the fall to the bottom of the Big Ten barrel. Maybe, maybe not.
It could happen, but there is a good chance for maybe not. M has a proven offensive capability they simply did not have last year. The defense will struggle at times, and we knew that going into the season, but they too are maybe slightly better than last year, even if they are not in the same league as the offense in effectiveness.
What the offense couldn’t do Saturday was provide any ball control, and the special teams were not special in not providing favorable field positions. They scored too quickly a couple of times. As satisfying as that is, the defense needs ball control as produced in the Notre Dame game. What the special teams did Saturday was consistently give UMass great field position for reasons listed above. While not the total problem, that was a contributing cause of Michigan’s defensive woes.
This was a trap game, with everything to get excited about on the side of the Minutemen. There was the distraction of the Robinson accomplishments and wins in the prior two weeks, even talk of the Heisman.
Now all that will quiet down a little. Expectations will get a little more balanced, but this season is far from being in the dumpster at this point. That second quarter offensive explosion balances some of the defensive defects. Some mistakes are out of the way. Robinson threw some great passes after his interception.
Bring on the Bowling Green Falcons, who demolished the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday with an outstanding defensive performance. They collared 4 interceptions and returned two for TDs. One of the returns covered 78-yards.
We’ll see what can be corrected and improved for that game.