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Posts Tagged ‘UMASS’

Michigan hires Don Brown to replace D.J. Durkin

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Don Brown

While most expected Syracuse’s Scott Shafer, Stanford’s Lance Anderson, or Colorado’s Jim Leavitt to be Michigan’s next defensive coordinator after D.J. Durkin’s departure for the Maryland head coaching job, Jim Harbaugh went a different route by hiring Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown. It was leaked via social media on Sunday night and officially announced by the school on Monday afternoon.

“We are very pleased and happy to announce that our top candidate and number one choice, Don Brown has accepted our offer to become defensive coordinator,” said Harbaugh in the statement released on “After a very thorough search and talking with those I respect the most in this game, including Jack Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, Bob Sutton, Vic Fangio and others, it led me to Don Brown. Everything he has touched has turned to gold. Just look at his track record as a head coach, defensive coordinator and even as a baseball coach. We are beyond excited to welcome this high character, high achieving individual to our program and university. Teaching and player development are synonymous with coaching and Don Brown epitomizes those qualities.”

Brown seemingly came out of nowhere — at least publicly — but has a track record that should make Michigan fans salivate. This season, he led the nation’s top defense, which allowed just 254.3 yards per game. Michigan’s was fourth, allowing 281.3. The Eagles ranked second nationally against the run (82.8 yards per game), eighth against the pass (171.5), ninth in pass efficiency defense (104.66), fourth in scoring defense (15.4 points per game), first in third down defense (24.1 percent), and 10th in red zone defense (73.3 percent).

This season, Brown’s defense held Notre Dame to a season low 19 points, 15.8 below their season average, and Florida State to their second lowest point total of the season (14 points), just one more than Clemson allowed. It also held Florida State running back Dalvin Cook — who finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy vote — to a season low 54 yards on 15 carries, one of only three games he was held below 100 yards all season, and the only game he was held out of the end zone. For those efforts, Brown was named the assistant coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.

Brown spent three seasons as BC’s defensive coordinator, turning around a team that ranked 92nd nationally in total defense in his first season at the school (2013) to 11th last season and first this season. Prior to Boston College, Brown was defensive coordinator at UConn from 2011-2012 and Maryland from 2009-2010. He spent the first nine seasons of the new century as a head coach, first at Northeastern (2000-2003) and then at UMass (2004-2008).

He was considered by some a candidate for the head coaching job at Maryland before the Terps hired Durkin away from Harbaugh. Instead of sitting still, Harbaugh went out and hired the one man who had a better defense than Durkin this season. It has been considered a home run hire by analysts and recruits alike.

Boston College went just 3-9 this season, through no fault of Brown. The Eagles had the nation’s third-worst offense, averaging just 275.6 yards and 17.2 points per game. That, perhaps, makes the job Brown did with the BC defense even more impressive. With no bowl game to coach, Brown can prepare for the move to Ann Arbor through the holidays and will begin his Michigan role after the bowl season.

Examining Michigan’s path through the Midwest Region

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Michigan team(

March started with a bang for the Michigan Wolverines, as they clinched an outright Big Ten championship during the first week and stormed to the finals in the conference tournament. With an opportunity to enter the Big Dance on an eight-game winning streak, Michigan’s momentum came to a screeching halt when Michigan State took the title with a 14-point win on Sunday.

The Wolverines, who figured to earn a No. 1 seed in the East with a victory, dropped to the sixth overall seed, No. 2 in the Indianapolis region. Michigan’s road to the Final Four looks just as difficult this year as it did during the National Championship game run in 2013.

What will it take for John Beilein’s surprise Big Ten champions to end up in Arlington next month?

Second Round

Wofford logo (15) Wofford | 20-12 (11-5 Southern Conference)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
156 0-1 0-2 0-2 252 10-2

Michigan’s first test comes against a Wofford team making just its third NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Terriers played just one RPI top 25 opponent during the 2013-14 season, a 72-57 loss to VCU on Dec. 17.

Wofford received an NCAA Tournament bid after a surprise run in the Southern Conference tournament. The third-seeded Terriers benefitted from some early upsets, and beat last-seeded The Citadel, seventh-seeded Georgia Southern, and fifth-seeded Western Carolina en route to the title. Wofford’s best win came on Dec. 21, when it beat RPI No. 168 Winthrop.

On paper, Michigan should have no trouble with Wofford. But No. 15 seeds thrived in the past two tournaments. In 2012, Duke and Missouri were upset as No. 2 seeds by Lehigh and Norfolk State, respectively. Then, in 2013, Florida Gulf Coast not only shocked the Georgetown Hoyas, but went on to beat seventh-seeded San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16.

Wofford’s 153 RPI closely mirrors that of Charlotte (151), which handed Michigan its worst loss of the season during the Puerto Rico Classic. Anything can happen in March, so the Wolverines can’t take this major underdog lightly.

Third Round

Texas logo (7) Texas | 23-10 (11-7 Big 12)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
37 3-3 3-5 6-1 65 6-6

If the Wolverines advance to the round of 32, they’ll see either seven-seed Texas or 10-seed Arizona State. After climbing as high as 15th in the AP Poll, the Longhorns limped into the field of 68, losing five of their last eight games. In January, Texas beat four straight top-25 teams, and it ranks as the fourth-best rebounding team in the country, but six losses in the final two months of the regular season took some of the wind out of coach Rick Barnes’s sails.

Arizona Stae logo (10) Arizona State | 21-11 (10-8 Pac-12)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI Top 50 vs. RPI Top 100 SOS Last 12
44 1-3 3-4 4-1 58 6-6

Arizona State struggled even worse than Texas down the stretch, losing three straight games including a 21-point waxing at the hands of Stanford in the first round of the Pac 12 Tournament. The Sun Devils did defeat in-state rival Arizona in double overtime on Valentine’s Day, but proceeded to lose five of seven afterwards.

A Michigan team that won seven of its last eight games holds an enormous advantage in a matchup that will feature a struggling opponent. Only a major upset stands between the Wolverines and a return to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16.

Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen)

Duke logo (3) Duke | 26-8 (13-5 ACC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
7 5-5 1-0 6-1 6 9-3

With two victories in the opening weekend, Michigan will likely earn a rematch with the Duke Blue Devils that won the previous matchup by 10 in Durham during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

These two teams have a way of finding each other throughout the course of every season. Duke survived a two-point upset bid from the eighth-seeded Wolverines in the 2011 tournament and defeated Beilein’s team the following season in the Maui Invitational. Michigan’s last win over Duke came on Dec. 6, 2008 in Crisler Arena, just 15 days after losing to the Blue Devils in the 2K Sports Classic championship.

Duke finished tied for third in the ACC this season and lost to Virginia in the conference championship game. The Blue Devils may represent the toughest obstacle for the Wolverines in the Midwest region, as the battle-tested group went 6-4 against RPI top-25 teams.

If Duke falters during the first weekend, Michigan would likely play Massachusetts, Iowa, or Tennessee.

IowaLogo (12) Iowa| 20-12 (9-9 Big Ten)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
55 2-8 3-1 2-2 44 4-8

Iowa completely fell apart late in the season, losing six of its last seven, but beat Michigan by 18 points in Iowa City in the middle of Big Ten play. At their best, the Hawkeyes played like a top-10 team, but that group completely evaporated and just barely squeaked into the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee logo (12) Tennessee | 21-12 (11-7 SEC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
40 1-5 2-2 4-2 11 7-5

Tennessee, on the other hand, used a five-game winning streak to cement its spot in the tournament before losing a tough battle to Florida in the SEC semifinals. The Volunteers beat just two NCAA Tournament teams this season (Xavier and Virginia) while Michigan won nine of those games. The last meeting came in the first round of the 2011 tournament, when Michigan ran former coach Bruce Pearl out of town with a 30-point drubbing.

UMass logo (6) UMass | 24-8 (10-6 Atlantic 10)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
21 2-0 5-4 6-3 48 7-5

UMass remains more of a mystery after finishing in fifth place in the difficult-to-understand Atlantic 10. Though the league received six bids to the NCAA Tournament, the Minutemen beat just two ranked opponents throughout the season and lost to 12th-place George Mason during conference play.

Should Michigan play against one of these three teams, the Elite Eight would be well within reach.

Regional Finals (Elite Eight)

Wichita State logo (1) Wichita State | 34-0 (18-0 Missouri Valley Conference)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI Top 50 vs. RPI Top 100 SOS Last 12
4 0-0 3-0 7-0 111 12-0

The final test for the Wolverines in their quest for the Final Four could come in many different forms. Wichita State, the only undefeated team in college basketball, looks to return to the Final Four after falling to Louisville in Atlanta last season. The Shockers won all but six of their 34 games this season by double figures, but played just one team seeded better than 10th in the tournament.

Louisville logo (4) Louisville | 29-5 (15-3 AAC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
19 4-3 1-2 4-0 96 11-1

Louisville emerged as a popular pick to reach the Final Four from the Midwest region just one year after winning the national championship. The AAC Champions impressed by winning 12 of their last 13 games and finishing with a 29-5 record.

But the Cardinals didn’t drop to a No. 4 seed for nothing. Louisville played just nine games against RPI top-40 opponents all season and went just 4-5 in those games. In fact, the defending champs may have received a much lower seed if it weren’t for three victories over Connecticut.

Kentucky logo (8) Kentucky | 24-10 (12-6 SEC)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
16 1-5 3-1 10-3 2 7-5

There’s a chance Michigan could also see preseason No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight. The young Wildcats lost five of their last 10 games, beat just one top-25 opponent (Louisville), and dropped to a No. 8 seed matched up against Kansas State.

Saint Louis logo (5) Saint Louis | 26-6 (13-3 Atlantic 10)
RPI Rank vs. RPI Top 25 vs. RPI 26-50 vs. RPI 51-100 SOS Last 12
26 2-3 3-1 4-1 68 8-4

A final potential matchup would have Michigan and Saint Louis battling for a Final Four trip. The Billikens started the season 25-2 before dropping four of their last five. Saint Louis played two ranked opponents all season, a six-point loss to then-No. 10 Wisconsin on Nov. 26 and a five-point loss to Wichita State on Dec. 1.

No matter which matchups the Wolverines face, the road to Arlington won’t be easy. In what potentially stands as the most difficult bracket in the tournament, Michigan will compete with the only undefeated group in the country, the preseason No. 1 team, the defending national champion and the best coach in college basketball history.

But for a Michigan team that started 6-4 and lost a preseason All-American only to win the Big Ten outright, the Midwest region represents just another step towards the goal of a National Championship.

#17 Michigan 63 – UMass 13: Michigan dominates Minutemen

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

UMass kicked off to begin the game, and it sailed out of bounds. The rest of the afternoon wasn’t much better for the Minutemen as Michigan cruised to a 63-13 victory. Michigan had nine touchdowns scored by eight different players and was 6-for-6 inside the red zone. Denard Robinson accounted for almost 400 total yards and four total touchdowns, and Fitz Toussaint looked like his old self again with 85 yards and a TD. No Michigan receiver caught more than three balls (Drew Dileo), as Denard (and Russell Bellomy in the fourth quarter) spread the ball around well.

#17 Michigan 63 – UMass 13
Final Stats
63 Final Score 13
2-1 Record 0-3
585 Total Yards 259
294 Net Rushing Yards 112
291 Net Passing Yards 147
27 First Downs 15
1 Turnovers 1
5-40 Penalties – Yards 10-69
3-124 Punts – Yards 7-268
30:57 Time of Possession 29:03
7-for-11 Third Down Conversions 7-for-17
1-for-1 Fourth Down Conversions 0-for-0
1-24 Sacks By – Yards 1-7
0-for-0 Field Goals 2-for-3
9-for-9 PATs 1-for-1
6-for-6 Red Zone Scores – Chances 2-for-2

Devin Gardner showed off his extreme athleticism on a 42-yard touchdown reception in the first half that was almost surreal to watch as he outran the defense, tip-toed the sideline and dove to the pylon after being shoved by a UMass defender. Dileo added a nice 66-yard reception to set up one of Vincent Smith’s two touchdowns, and even redshirt freshman running back Justice Hayes got in on the action late with the first TD of his career.

Speaking of first touchdowns, Taylor Lewan scored his first on a fumble recovery after Denard fumbled on the goal line. Hopefully this is the last time Lewan finds himself in the end zone that way.

Michigan didn’t take long to put points on the board as Denard hit a wide open Devin Funchess on a 26-yard slant on Michigan’s fifth play of the game, and he took it in for six. The rest of the game went pretty much the same way as Michigan put up 42 before halftime.

However, UMass gave a good effort and had its moments. Former Michigan running back and alum, Mike Cox, ran the ball hard and was tough take down, while the Minutemen took back an interception for their only TD of the day. Their best play, however, was a flea flicker in the second quarter that went for a big gain inside the 20. The drive stalled though and they had to settle for a field goal, as they did on one other drive as well. In the end, Michigan was just too much, as we all expected, and the Wolverines prevailed 63-13.

Despite the end result, the Minutemen fought and fought hard. Both their offensive and defensive lines gave Michigan all they could handle in the early going, but faded as the game went on. Denard was 16-24 for 291 and 3 touchdowns, but he wasn’t as efficient as he could have been and still struggled to make good reads and stepping into his throws. The pick-six he threw was a horrible ball that should never have been thrown in the first place.

The Wolverines still have a lot to work on but this game gave them a nice confidence boost and a glimpse of the uptempo spread-style offense Notre Dame will employ next week, as UMass head coach Charlie Molnar is a former assistant of Brian Kelly’s going all the way back to his days at Central Michigan. If Michigan wants to leave South Bend with a win next week they will need to bring their A-game. Notre Dame looked very good, especially up front, against the Spartans in East Lansing on Saturday night and year three looks to be the year for Brian Kelly and the Irish, something not every recent ND coach can say.

Brady Hoke will most likely never be satisfied with his team’s effort, and that’s fine with me. There is always something to be improved upon. Look for Michigan to have a good week of practice and be ready to take on the Golden Domers under the lights next Saturday in what should be another epic battle.

Three Stars:

1. Denard Robinson
Passing: 16-24 291 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 10 rushes for 109 yards, 1 touchdown
Why? Denard was his vintage self on his lone touchdown run, pulling down a would-be pass, rushing to his left, cutting back across the field, and outrunning the defense to the end zone. But he also got it done with his arm, passing for nearly 300 yards in three quarters. He spread the ball around to nine different receivers and passed Tom Brady and Jim Harbaugh on the career passing yards list.

2. Drew Dileo
Receiving: 3 catches for 91 yards
Why? The diminutive receiver had the best game of his young career, nearly reaching 100 yards receiving. He provided exactly what Michigan needs – another receiving weapon to step up. If Denard can continue to find Dileo and Jeremy Gallon from the slot position, it will take some of the pressure off of Devin Gardner and Roy Roundtree on the outside.

3. Fitz Toussaint
Rushing: 15 rushes for 87 yards, 1 touchdown
Why?  In his second game back from suspension, Toussaint showed what we all saw last season: shiftiness and a knack for picking up yards. It was important to get him going with Notre Dame coming up, and he made the most of it, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Honorable Mention: Taylor Lewan. The junior left tackle recorded the first touchdown of his career, recovering a Denard fumble at the goal line. Denard said after the game that Lewan wasn’t happy about it because if he had made the block, Denard wouldn’t have gotten hit and fumbled in the first place, but he’ll happily take the points.

Top Photos:

Ron Kramer's No. 87 was given legends status (photo by

Jerald Robinson nearly made an acrobatic one-handed touchdown catch (AP photo)

Five-year-old Cooper Barton and his family were honored during a timeout (photo by

Team 133 was drawn in the sky above the Big House (photo by the Detroit News)

Michigan players greet their former teammate, Mike Cox after the game (photo by MGoBlog)

Denard Robinson postgame transcript: UMass

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Denard Robinson came up just three yards short of 400 total yards against UMass in just over three quarters of work. He passed Tom Brady and Jim Harbaugh on the all-time passing list, and John Navarre on the career total yards list, and tied Chris Perry on the career rushing touchdown list.

Denard talked a lot about being accountable to his teammates (photo by Dave Reginek, Getty Images)

Cliffs Notes:

– The interception was a bad throw
– He could have played better. He missed some throws he should have made
– He doesn’t worry about records; just being accountable to his teammates
– He’s comfortable with Elliott Mealer
– Taylor Lewan was mad about scoring a touchdown
– He just loves to play football, regardless of who it’s against
– He’s watching the Michigan State – Notre Dame game tonight

Full transcript is below.

On what he saw on the pick-six…
“Jeremy Jackson came open. I just threw it behind him and it was a bad throw. It was a good read, just a bad throw. I need to put my feet into it and follow through with the throw.”

On the block by Joe Kerridge on his long touchdown run…
“When you’re on the football team, everybody on the field has to be accountable, even from the scouts and everybody. When Joe gets on the field I know he’s going to be accountable. He just told me about it.”

On whether this was the type of game they needed to have entering the tougher part of the schedule…
“We needed to get a good win and everyday we need to come out and get better. We came out today (and) I feel like we got better, but we still have some things to work on.”

On his performance…
“I left a couple throws out on the field that I knew I should have made. I missed (Jeremy) Gallon on one throw and I missed Devin (Gardner) on another one, so those are throws that I think I need to improve on and try not to leave them on the field.”

On passing Tom Brady and Jim Harbaugh in passing yards…
“To be honest with you, the only thing I think about is winning and just going out there and being accountable to my team. So when it comes to records, it’s just going out there and playing football with the team.”

On the performance of the running backs…
“They ran the ball well and we have to keep doing it. We have to keep getting better every time we get out on the football field.”

On his comfort level with Elliott Mealer after three games…
“I’ve been comfortable with him since the first game. We’ve been working all summer and all winter and all spring, so I feel really comfortable.”

On the importance of no injuries today…
“It’s always good to have healthy guys and always good to have the guys that we count on. If somebody does go down, somebody (else) will be ready to play anyhow. We just have to stay healthy and every time we get a chance, improve.”

On getting Roy Roundtree involved in the game today…
“Oh yeah. Once he got open and I made the right reads and got him the ball, he’s a phenomenal athlete and receiver. I enjoy throwing the ball to him, so when he gets open and I the a chance to throw it to him I know he’s going to make something happen.”

On whether the game plan was to spread the ball around…
“I think whoever comes open, that’s who I throw the ball to. I go through my reads and go through the progression and just look at the defense and see what comes open.”

On the fumble on the goal line and whether Taylor Lewan was happy to get the touchdown…
“Actually he was kind of mad because if I would have kept going outside he would have probably made that block on the guy that hit me. I have to make the right reads and I have to hold onto the ball. That’s first thing’s first – always protect the ball. He just told me we scored and that’s the main thing.”

On still being in the game, up 49-13…
“That was for the team, everybody on the team. We knew we had to come out and play well and Massachusetts was a good team. We knew we had to play well and we have to get better every time we step on the field. So that’s what coach wanted to do.”

On what it is about Notre Dame that brings out the best in him…
“To be honest with you, it’s going out there and playing football. Whenever I get on the football field, I want to play my best and be accountable to my team. So when I get the chance to run the ball or throw the ball, I want to do it to the best of my abilities.”

On Russell Bellomy’s performance…
“He played calm and I enjoyed watching him play calm because even though he had a little pressure on the edge, he tried to step up in the pocket and you could tell that he had confidence. I think he’s going to do pretty well.”

On whether he will watch Michigan State – Notre Dame tonight and whether he can gain anything from watching a game like that on TV…
“Oh yeah. Watching football in general, when you watch the game, you don’t look at it like a regular person anymore. You look at it because you watch and break down film all the time. You watch the plays and you watch how they play. So tonight when I watch the game, I’m going to look at it and see what we can do on them.”

Brady Hoke postgame transcript: UMass

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Michigan beat UMass by 50 points this afternoon, improving to 2-1 on the season, but head coach Brady Hoke wasn’t completely pleased with the effort. At least that’s how he portrayed his feelings to the media after the game with the big matchup with Notre Dame a week away.

Hoke wasn't pleased despite winning by 50 (photo by Dave Reginek, Getty Images)

Cliffs Notes:

– The team works hard, but isn’t where it needs to be
– He used his timeouts effectively at the end of the first half (as opposed to last week, which he didn’t say)
– Both Desmond Morgan and Stephen Hopkins should play against Notre Dame
– The offensive line needs to get better push, but he’s not frustrated with them
– Vincent Smith and Drew Dileo’s performances weren’t surprising
– Need to get better on third down defense
– The team needs playmakers to step up other than Denard. He singled out Devin Funchess as an example
– He’s not pleased with the run defense

Read below for the full transcript. Denard Robinson transcript to follow.

On the development of the team through three games…
“I think we’re progressing a little bit in the two areas that are the most concerning. That’s up front defensively and up front offensively. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to where we should be and where we need to be, so we’ll go back to work and keep working it. I like the attitude our team has had and how they’ve come to work. I think for us to meet the expectations we all have we’ve got to get a lot better.”

On the two-minute drill at the end of the first half…
“Once we knew we were getting the ball back we wanted to go, and they did a nice job with it. I’m going to have to go look at it to recite every play to you, but I thought we were good with the timeouts when we took them and what we needed to do.”

On how important it was to stay healthy and whether he had any reservations about playing Denard when up 49-13…
“We wanted to play him another series. This is all about trying to get a mindset of the team and a mentality to win a championship. Keeping the offense together was a big part of that and letting them finish. I don’t know if we got any boo-boos today, but we’ve had one of those years where we’ve had a lot of guys get dinged up.”

On the play of the running backs, especially Fitz Toussaint…
“I think he did okay. I think there’s a couple times I’d like to see him stick his foot in the ground and be more vertical with some stuff.”

On whether Desmond Morgan and Stephen Hopkins will be out for multiple games…
“They should be back next week.”

On what kind of injury Morgan has…
“I don’t know what they classify it as. Sometimes they get dinged.”

On whether this is the type of game they needed…
“We would have taken any win.”

On the offensive line play…
“I don’t think we moved the line of scrimmage as well as we need to.”

On what they have to do to open up holes…
“We better play with better leverage. We better combination block better when we’re doing that, and we better finish.”

On if he would contemplate shaking up the lineup…
“I think we will evaluate like we always do.”

On Vincent Smith’s performance…
“Vince is one of those guys that whenever you call his number he’s going to perform. It’s not surprising. I think when you look at what he’s done for Michigan football and how he comes to work every day, it’s not surprising.”

On whether he’s disappointed at how this team is progressing, and what is his assessment of the team at this point…
“I think we’re getting a feel, but these kids have worked hard, and they’ve worked hard since last January. They have high expectations. It’s our job to be honest and be real and push them to where they can meet those expectations. I told them the same thing I told you: it’s great to win, but if we want to win a Big Ten championship we need to improve a lot in a lot of areas, and they start up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage.”

On how the team can improve in a game like this that isn’t close…
“There’s always a team morale factor and being able to play a lot of guys – a lot of guys who have worked hard, a lot of guys who go down on the look teams. Having the ability to play in this football game in front of 110,000 family and friends, I think that’s great and that’s what you want to happen. The other games are not just for those guys who got that opportunity, but for us as a team, to improve, in the kicking game, on offense, and on defense. Turnovers – we’ve been terrible – terrible – at creating turnovers and if we don’t start creating turnovers we’re going to get beat. We need to give more opportunities to our offense. Running the football and defending the run – I think they were 7-of-17 on third down. We had opportunities to make some stops and we didn’t make them.”

On whether he’s frustrated with the offensive line…
“I’m not frustrated with them. I wasn’t frustrated before with them, because I know how hard they go to work and how much they put into it. But at the same time, we’ve got to do it better. So, frustrated? I’m not frustrated. I like our offensive line. It’s my favorite part of the football team because of the work that they do. I put a lot of pressure on them. We put a lot of pressure on them. Just like we do our defensive line. If you’re going to be good in football, you better be good in your offensive line and your defensive line.”

On the importance of finding a playmaker other than Denard…
“That’s part of it – that’s a big part of it – and that’s why we need to block better in the traditional run plays with the running back. I think there’s some playmakers on the offense – at receiver, at tight end. I think Devin (Funchess) is a guy who is a freshman and he’s still got a lot to learn, but he’s a playmaker and we’ve got to find more. But trying to get your running back to be a playmaker is blockgin at the point of attack.”

On whether he’s pleased with the rush defense, and whether he was able to evaluate it effectively against UMass…
“You know, I think you are, to some degree. They have four senior offensive linemen who are pretty good football players. Mike Cox was a scholarship athlete here at the University of Michigan, and when he has a hole there, he runs it pretty well. But totally, probably not when you get into a powere offensive team.”

Were you pleased?

On whether the plan was for Matt Wile to angle his kickoffs…
“Yeah we were trying to, just like everything else, your kicking game, we’ve felt like the first two ball games we didn’t play as well as we needed to. The Alabama game, we had three blocks in the back on kick returns that killed us. Last week, we didn’t think we were consistent enough. Part of that is trying to place the ball on kickoffs. He did the pooch punting because that little pineapple kick – I don’t know what they call it, but that’s what I call it – he does it pretty effectively. But yeah, we were trying to spread the ball a little bit.”

On whether Drew Dileo’s performance was a nice surprise…
“No. Drew is not the biggest cat in the world, but he’s got a heart that’s huge, and he loves the game of football. Every day, Drew comes out and we ask him to do a lot. And he does it well for us, so it’s not surprising.”

M&GB Pick’em: UMass staff predictions

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Last week, all six of us were too high on Michigan’s point total and too low on Air Force’s. Matt was the closest overall, just four high on Michigan and five low on AF. Justin was the most confident in Air Force’s offense, just one short of their point total, but was two touchdowns and a two-point conversion too confident in Michigan’s offense. Chris picked Michigan to score 34 points, so he was the closest there, but he was nine low on the Falcons. This week should be fun since Michigan hosts the nation’s lowest scoring team through the first two weeks of the season. Let’s take a look at our picks.

Justin: One of the greatest rivalries in college football takes center stage on Saturday as Michigan looks to continue its winning streak over the Fighting Irish. What’s that? Oh, Notre Dame is next week? I guess I overlooked UMass. But don’t expect Brady Hoke and Co. to do so. This won’t be a repeat of the matchup two years ago or the stunning upset in 2007 of which we will not talk about. UMass is starting a true freshman quarterback and has a Michigan cast-off starting in the backfield (no offense to Mr. Cox). Six points and 323 yards of offense in two games is not a recipe for success at any level of football. They’ll probably score more than six points tomorrow, but in garbage time. If they approach double digits before halftime, then we have reason for concern the rest of the season. I don’t see that happening. See this morning’s game preview, yesterday’s Friend vs. Foe, and Tuesday’s First Look for more. And while we’re at it, enter this week’s 5-Spot Challenge for a chance to win a $20 M Den gift card.

Michigan 48 – UMass 9


Justin: Michigan 48 – UMass 9
Chris: Michigan 48 – UMass 10
Josh: Michigan 49 – UMass 0
Matt: Michigan 56 – UMass 13
Sam: Michigan 52 – UMass 3
Katie: Michigan 48 – UMass 9


Average: Michigan 50 – UMass 7

Chris: Here we are in Week 3 of the 2012 season. The Wolverines play host the UMass Minutemen, a team they beat in 2010 in a closer-than-everybody-predicted game, 42-37. That was a different Michigan team and I certainly don’t expect that type of game again. In fact, I don’t think it will even be close. So, because of that, I’ll keep this short and sweet.

UMass enters this game with a 0-2 record and has been outscored 82-6 by UConn and Indiana. Last season, they went 5-6 playing an FCS schedule. In their only game against an FBS school (Boston College), a team that finished the year 4-8, they lost 45-17. That was last year you say.  True, but the talent level hasn’t changed much. They do return nine starters on the defense and have a veteran offensive line, but they still are not close to the talent level of Michigan.

Michigan should win this game easily, and should have the game wrapped up in time to get the starters out early enough to get some of the second-team players some playing time. This is an excellent opportunity for offensive coordinator Al Borges to work on the offense which he plans to use for the rest of the season and work out the last few remaining kinks before Notre Dame and the Big Ten conference schedule begins. It is NOT an opportunity to run drop back passes and work on trying to make Denard Robinson better in the pocket. It is also a chance to give the O-line some work at opening holes in the running game for Fitzgerald Toussaint, something they will need to have confidence doing as the year progresses.

Michigan is more talented on both sides of the ball than this UMass team. I like both Denard and Fitz to run wild in this game and I’ll be looking for the Michigan defense to step up and take pride in not allowing a single point on Saturday.

Michigan 48 – UMass 10

Josh: After struggling the last two weeks against the top team in the land and one that employs a nightmarish offensive scheme, Michigan looks to get back in their groove this week against UMass. The Minutemen are a new FBS team and, as Justin mentioned in his preview, they almost beat the Wolverines a couple years back. This is not the same team, for Michigan or UMass.

No, this isn't a's UMass head coach Charley Molnar (AP photo)

Denard has been the offense for Michigan and they really need to get someone else involved, or to step up. Devin Funchess had a great game last week and should be heavily involved as the season continues. If Michigan is to right the ship, so to speak, they will need to get Fitz Toussaint involved and UMass is the perfect opponent to do so against. Look for Borges to try to involve the rest of guys on offense and get them back in the swing of things in what should be a walk in the park against the Minutemen, a team that got stomped by Indiana 45 – 6. Yes, Indiana!

UMass should not give Michigan much of a fight but it is still imperative that Michigan comes out and dominates like they should against a former FCS squad. This is their last tune-up before Notre Dame and their last chance to work out all the kinks. I expect them to come out and dominate UMass, letting plenty of guys get some garbage time in the end. If Indiana can put up 45 on this team then Michigan should be able to put up 70. I don’t expect them to do so, but I think Michigan exorcises some demons this weekend and rides high on the confidence as they head into South Bend the following week

Michigan 49 – UMass 0

Matt: Saturday at 3:30, the Michigan Wolverines host the UMass Minutemen. It seems like it should be a blow out, right? Seems like Michigan should destroy them, hands down, and Denard should rush for 200 or 300 yards, maybe run in 3 touchdowns, and throw a few more. Can the Minutemen come into the Big House and pull an upset over the Wolverines like Appalachian State did years ago (you do not understand how hard it is for me to even type that school’s name)?

I don’t think so either!

Michigan plays an important game next week, traveling to Notre Dame. We’ll get to that game next week, but Brady Hoke and company need to get this squad ready for that game because it’s going to be tough. So, I think this game against UMass is a great game to get them ready. Try out plays that maybe you wouldn’t want to “try out” against any other team, and be able to see the depth of your roster. Maybe we’ll see Devin move back to quarterback for a few plays. Maybe we’ll see Russell Bellomy play some QB. I really doubt we see Denard play the whole game, that is unless UMass makes it a game, and keeps it close. But I just don’t see that happening.

Sorry to make this short, but I just don’t see UMass giving us much trouble. Air Force last week hung in there, but I think Air Force is a far better team than UMass. I see Michigan coming out on fire, and it only getting better (for the Wolverines). Eventually I think we’ll see backups play, and we’ll see Brady Hoke put it on cruise control.

Michigan 56 – UMass 13

Sam: After a week one whipping at the hands of the number one team in the country, the Michigan Wolverines bounced back last Saturday with a closer-than-expected 31-25 edging of the Air Force Falcons. It’s been said before, but it needs to be said again: Michigan won’t really know what it has until next weekend’s night game at Notre Dame. That is, unless the Massachusetts Minutemen have something to say.

UMass wishes it still had this guy

This Saturday, Michigan indeed takes on the Football Bowl Subdivision rookies from the east by way of the MAC. The Minutemen come into the Big House a huge underdog, and for good reason. Two games into the season, UMass has put up a total of six points and given up an unsettling 82 against mediocre BCS teams Connecticut and Indiana in 37-0 and 45-6 losses, respectively. While Michigan has certainly struggled to an extent to date, anything less than a three touchdown victory should be very worrisome.

On defense, Michigan must focus on improving the front seven against the run. Massachusetts does not run the ball well. In fact, after facing one of the better rushing offenses in the country last week in Air Force, Michigan will face one of the worst this week. Mike Cox (yes, that Mike Cox, he of Michigan lore) became a Minuteman for his fifth year of eligibility and instantly became the starter. To say he has been bad so far would be a horrible understatement. Yet he is still their leading rusher with a whopping 32 yards on 20 carries, good for 1.6 yards per carry. Their most efficient runner would be freshman quarterback A.J. Doyle, with nine yards on four carries, or 2.3 yards per. The more you think about it, Michigan should really be concerned if Massachusetts is in the black for rushing yards at the end of the game.

While Massachusetts’s passing game has been a little bit better, it certainly shouldn’t turn heads. Starter Mike Wegzyn has completed just over 56 percent of his passes for 207 yards and one interception. Marken Michel will be the focal point of the passing attack, as he has already recorded eight catches for 82 yards. What I’m trying to say is…well, let me just give a prediction. UMass will go for 87 total yards, 60 of those through the air trying to play catch up. If Michigan gives up triple digit yardage, there is a problem.

On offense, Michigan obviously should have no trouble moving the ball and will look to get backup quarterback Russell Bellomy into the game by the fourth quarter at the latest. Denard will get his in the first half, rushing and passing for over 150 each, but there is no sense in risking an injury and keeping him in for too long. Look for Roy Roundtree to finally get involved and then look for numbers that you haven’t seen for a couple years run onto the field.

All in all, this is the cupcake of cupcakes, the walk in the park of walks in the park. While a win is a win no matter what the score, Michigan really needs to put UMass away in the first half to gain some confidence and get the critics off their backs. The Wolverines should do just that.

Michigan 52 – UMass 3

Katie: Hopefully, this will be an easy hurdle after a win that was not thoroughly convincing. I mean it was a win, and it never seemed as though Michigan would shut down and lose, but it got tight enough to make fans uneasy, something that should not happen on September 15. UMass is now a member of the MAC, and returns 18 starters. However, the transition will likely not be the easiest, as is apparent in their schedule which opened with the Big East and is followed with two Big Ten schools. Not that UConn and Indiana were the heavyweights in their conferences – the Hoosiers are definitely lightweights – but nevertheless are bigger named teams. But as for the Minutemen’s start, it was less than stellar. They were routed, twice, and once by an Indiana team that went 1-11 last year and is not predicted to hit even this season.

In two games UMass has scored a total of six points, and given up 82. Michigan’s 66 points given up isn’t a great prospect, but then again the Wolverines played Alabama, so some things are allowed to be condoned. Basically I just can’t shake that 45-6 score that the Minutemen put up last week against Indiana. If Indiana can be them that bad, then well, that’s really all I want to know. Please Michigan, let this one be over by halftime.

Michigan 48 – UMass 9

#17 Michigan vs. UMass game preview

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Michigan has yet to face the  UMass Minutemen of the Football Bowl Subdivision. That’s because the last time the teams squared off, two years ago, UMass was a member of the FCS, the Football Championship Subdivision. This year, the Minutemen made the leap to the big time, and they’re still searching for their first program win amongst the big boys.

The opener was about as ugly as it gets for anyone not named Savannah State. UMass put up just 59 yards of total offense and got shut out 37-0 by UConn without even running an offensive play in Huskie territory. Last week wasn’t much better. The Minutemen found some offense and the scoreboard, but still got pounded 45-6 by Indiana.

Michigan Stadium  –  Ann Arbor, Mich.
3:30pm EST  –  Big Ten Network

UMass Head Coach: Charley Molnar (1st season)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Kruczek
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Elmassian
Returning Starters: 16 (6 offense, 10 defense)
Last Season: 5-6 (3-5)
Last Meeting: Michigan 42 – UMass 37 (2010)
All-time Series: Michigan 1 – UMass 0
Michigan vs. MAC: 30-1

Two years ago, UMass nearly shocked Michigan in the Big House, needing only an onside kick recovery to have a chance of taking the lead in the final minutes. But that was a much darker time in Michigan football when defense was virtually an afterthought. Nationally, some may think it’s becoming that way again, but games against the top team in the nation and the top rushing attack in the nation will do that to anyone.

Since the game itself will be lopsided, perhaps the biggest story this week is the return of former Michigan running back Michael Cox to Ann Arbor. Cox transfered to UMass in the offseason when his fifth year was not renewed and has become the starting running back for the Minutemen. In his four years in the maize and blue, Cox tallied 177 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, but was never able to work his way into the starting lineup. Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Sam McGuffie, Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, Fitz Toussaint, and even Stephen Hopkins all passed him by, but he worked hard consistently during his time on the team. He still maintains friendships with many of his former teammates and they’re rooting for him on every Saturday but this one.

“He’s always been a good friend of mine and I’m going to root for him every week except this one,” said Taylor Lewan. “I hope he’s successful and hopefully our defense can contain him.”

The game will likely be over by halftime, so to make things interesting, perhaps we can throw out some prop bets. Like how long will it take for UMass to sniff Michigan’s side of the 50? Or how many minutes will Denard Robinson play before giving way to Russell Bellomy and/or Devin Gardner? Or who will get Ron Kramer’s No. 87 “Legends” jersey? The list could go on, but since this is a game preview and not a Vegas book, let’s take a look at the matchups.

When UMass has the ball

UMass is quarterbacked by true freshman Mike Wegzyn who has completed 27-of-48 passes for 207 yards, no touchdowns, and one interceptions thus far. If you’re keeping score, that’s one fewer yard than Denard threw for last week and 11 fewer yards than he rushed for.

True freshman Mike Wegzyn makes his first trip to the Big House (AP photo)

The aforementioned Cox is the running back, but has managed just 32 yards on 20 carries so far. Wegzyn is the team’s second-leading rusher with 24 yards on 11 carries, while senior Chris Burns got the start in Week 1 and practically ran backwards. Head coach Charley Molnar replaced him with Cox last week and going forward, delivering this scathing review.

“Burns’ performance last week was not what he had hoped for,” Molnar said. “For a guy who basically had the job, every rep with the starters throughout summer camp, [he] just didn’t handle some of his responsibilities like a guy who’s been around and should have.”

On the outside, UMass is led by Marken Michel who has eight receptions for 82 yards. Freshman Tajae Sharpe and junior tight end Rob Blanchflower are the only other receivers with more than two catches so far, with four and five, respectively.

The offensive line will surely be bigger than Air Force’s but nowhere near the size of Alabama’s.  The Minutemen return four of five starters from last season along the line, three of which started every game in 2011. Regardless of starting experience, UMass’ offense is much more in line with an offense that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knows how to defend, as opposed to the physically dominating Tide and wacky tough-to-defend Falcons.

The offense is an up-tempo spread attack that Molnar, who was Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons, is trying to install. But like we all saw in Year 1 of Rich Rodriguez’s offense, it’s going to take some time. The Minutemen rank dead last in yards per game and scoring so far and won’t put up much of a fight against Michigan. The only benefit to the Michigan defense is that the offense will be similar to what Notre Dame will employ next week, so it essentially serves as a tuneup for the Irish.

The two defenses UMass has faced thus far were lightweights compared to what they’ll face tomorrow. It’s safe to say they’ll muster more than 59 yards of offense – this being their third game and all – but it’s going to be tough sledding. With an average of just three points and 162 total yards of offense per game, look for Michigan’s defense to hold the Minutemen to similar numbers.

When Michigan has the ball

It's too bad we won't get to see UMass rock the sharp new all black unis, as sported by defensive lineman Kevin Byrne

UMass’ defensive weakness matches up with Michigan’s offensive strength. A week ago, Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson rushed for 114 yards and combined with Cameron Coffman to throw for 263 more. In one sense, it was great preparation for facing Denard Robinson this week. On the other hand, if they couldn’t stop a poor man’s version of Denard, do they have any hope of slowing down the real thing? I’d say the answer is a mixture of both. Denard will get his yards for sure, but that won’t be Al Borges’ game plan like it was against Air Force. UMass will sell out to stop Denard from beating them with his legs and Borges will look to get Fitz Toussaint going again. Don’t be surprised if Toussaint finishes with more rushing yards than Denard and Denard has a good day passing.

The Minutemen defense is led by an experienced group of linebackers, most notably senior Perry McIntyre who has a team-high 21 tackles so far. He led the team with 116 a year ago. On either side are redshirt junior Tom Brandt, the team’s third leading tackler, and sophomore Greg Hilliard, who leads the team with two tackles for loss.

The line in Molnar’s new 4-3 defense has six players returning who played in eight or more games last season. Stanley Andre isn’t one of them, but he’s fourth on the team with 10 tackles so far. Nose tackle Chaz Thompson and ends Ryan Delaire and Trey Seals round out the group. Seals has the team’s lone sack thus far while Delaire has 1.5 tackles for loss.

The secondary impressed Molnar in the offseason, but has given up 250 passing yards per game. Senior safety Darren Thellen is the ringleader with 16 tackles and a pick so far. Corners Antoine Tharpe and Randall Jette are doing their best.

Michigan won’t have much trouble moving the ball or finding the end zone. Look for Borges to get Toussaint going and work on a few things, but not open up the playbook more than needed.

The other third

The two Brandons (Levengood and Yelovich) combined to go 8-for-14 last season, but Molnar wasn’t impressed when he came in. He brought in two preferred walk-ons and a junior college transfer to compete for the job. Blake Lucas won the job, but missed his only try of the season to date. Punters Colter Johnson and Jeff Strait have split time but done a good job, averaging 43 yards per punt. UMass has had just three kickoffs so far and one has gone for a touchback, so Dennis Norfleet won’t get many opportunities to break a big return. In the return game for UMass, Jordan Broadnax is dangerous, averaging 23.7 yards per kick return, but Matt Wile has done a nice job of kicking it deep into the end zone.


Rushing Attempts: 12 – Denard will pass Billy Taylor for 7th in career rushing attempts
Rushing Yards: 223 – Denard will pass Chris Perry for 6th in career rushing yards.
Rushing Touchdowns: 2 – Denard will pass Chris Perry for 4th in career rushing touchdowns.
100 rushing yards: Denard will tie Butch Woolfolk for 5th in career 100-yard rushing games.
Passing Attempts: 18 – Denard will pass Steve Smith for 6th in career passing attempts.
Pass Completions: 25 – Denard will pass Jim Harbaugh for 6th in career completions.
Passing yards: 13 – Denard will pass Tom Brady for 6th in career passing yards. He could also pass Harbaugh for 5th with 111 passing yards.
Passing Touchdowns: 5 – Denard will tie Rick Leach for 4th in career passing touchdowns.
Total Yards: 219 – Denard will pass John Navarre for 2nd in career total yards. With 488, he will pass Chad Henne for 1st.

Michigan won’t leave this one in doubt like it did last week and the last time these two teams played. A heavy dose of Toussaint with some Denard on the side will be the recipe in the first half. Look for Denard to break another big run, have a good day passing, and give way to Russell Bellomy or Devin Gardner at some point in the second half. Greg Mattison’s defense will be enough to confuse the young UMass quarterback and hold Cox in check. Michigan will cruise.

Michigan 48 – UMass 9


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the game will be the announcement of which player gets the honor of wearing Ron Kramer’s No. 87 “Legends” jersey. Kramer played nearly every position for the Wolverines from 1954-56, namely tight end, defensive end, running back, quarterback, kicker, and receiver. He was a two-time All-American and three-time first team All-Big Ten selection. He also played basketball, leading the Wolverines in scoring twice, and ran track. He was drafted fourth overall in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers where he played seven seasons before playing three with the Detroit Lions. He’s a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame.

Since Kramer was best known for his tackling ability as a defensive end, along with his blocking ability according to then-head coach Bennie Oosterbaan, the safe bet would be Craig Roh. But Roh is a senior with just 10 games remaining, and last week we saw Oosterbaan’s No. 47 go to sophomore Jake Ryan. So who else could get it? If Frank Clark hadn’t gotten into legal trouble, I’d say he’d be a candidate, but since one of the qualifications is character, he’s out. Tight end Devin Funchess is an option, but will it be given to a true freshman with two career games under his belt? If Hoke thinks he’s worthy, then I’m all for it. Otherwise, if Funchess keeps up the production he showed last week, he’ll make a name for himself in No. 19.

Friend vs. Foe: UMass edition

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

For this week’s installment of Friend vs. Foe, we teamed up with Bob McGovern of the Maroon Musket. Bob will provide his evaluation of how or why UMass can win on Saturday. Remember, this isn’t a game prediction. It is an attempt to describe why or how each team can win from each side of the matchup.

The case for UMass
by Bob

The best way to write about UMass’ chances is to redefine what the word “win” means. In the literal sense, a win would mean that the Minutemen defied all odds, caught inexplicable breaks and pulled off what would be the biggest upset in the history of the Big House (yes, that includes Appalachian State). Under its new, realistic definition, a win would mean not losing by the spread (45.5 points) and scoring more than one touchdown.

In order to get a revised win, the Minutemen need to improve in all three major facets of the game.

The Minutemen come to Ann Arbor running a no-huddle spread attack, which is a far cry from the pro style set from years past. Possessions are quicker, the quarterback plays a larger role and there is little to no emphasis on the running game. The offense has gotten progressively better during the first two weeks, but UMass is incredibly young and has freshmen at quarterback, wide receiver and the offensive line. This will the the first spread that Michigan sees this year, and if UMass head coach Charley Molnar pulls a trick play or two (See: flea-flicker against Indiana), the Minutemen may put some points on the board. Other than that, UMass fans will hope that Michigan-transfer Mike Cox continues to improve at running back – particularly with getting open in the flats – in order to take some of the pressure off redshirt freshman Mike Wegzyn who has shown signs of maturity.

On defense, UMass has been adequate and awful. If the Minutemen plan to keep Michigan under 50, they will need to play their best game yet. Against Indiana, Tre Roberson had a field day on the ground and often found himself staring at vast swaths of open field. Denard Robinson is a far better athlete and will make the Minutemen pay if they afford him the same space. UMass will hope for a better push up front and more consistent play from Perry McIntyre and its linebacking corps. In the secondary, safety Darren Thellen is doing his best to keep the game in front of him, but inexperience at corner has reared its head time and time again this season.

In an odd twist of circumstances, the Minutemen have a punter battle going on. Incumbent Jeff Strait has essentially lost his job to JUCO transfer Colter Johnson, who had a decent game against Indiana. The punting shouldn’t be an issue, but if UMass gets close enough for a field goal, things could get ugly. Freshman Blake Lucas missed an extra point and a field goal against the Hoosiers, and kickoff specialist Brendon Levengood wasn’t much better last year. One of these guys has to separate himself as the team’s kicker or else everything inside the opposing team’s 40 will become four-down territory.

Michigan will win this game and should do so in convincing fashion. Realistic UMass fans would consider a three-touchdown loss to be a major victory for a team still searching for its identity. In order for this newly defined win to come to fruition, UMass will have to play its best game and hope that the laundry list of starting freshmen don’t get rattled by the pure enormity of the Big House.

The case for Michigan
by Justin

The last two weeks have been a challenge for Michigan defensively. First, going up against the nation’s best offensive line and a powerful pro-style attack. Then, facing the nation’s top rushing offense, a no-huddle triple option attack. This week, the defense gets some breathing room against what has been the nation’s worst offense through the first two games.

If anyone is expecting this to be a repeat of the meeting between these two teams from two years ago, think again. UMass is in its first year under new head coach Charley Molnar, who is transforming the offense to an up-tempo spread attack. But right now, he lacks the horses to compete.

In Week 1, the Minutemen put up just 59 yards of total offense against a surprisingly decent UConn defense. But it also gave up 37 points to the Huskies who managed just seven last week against N.C. State. In Week 2, the UMass offense fared slightly better, gaining 264 yards at six points, but it was against an Indiana defense that allowed Indiana State to rack up 387 yards and 21 points in Week 1. UMass allowed the Hoosiers to score 45 points.

In short, Michigan should thrive on both sides of the ball on Saturday, and there’s nothing schematically that will decide this. After two tough tests, the defense will get a chance to play Michigan defense and right the ship before heading to South Bend and beginning the conference slate. The offense, which was virtually shut down and vanilla against Alabama, and utilized Denard Robinson’s feet 20 times against Air Force, gets one last tuneup before the real test begins.

Look for more of the same from Denard, both on the ground and through the air this week, but expect the game plan to focus on getting Fitzgerald Toussaint back at the level he left off last season. Michigan will keep the offense pretty simple this week, so as to not show more than it has to to Notre Dame, and build a big lead before giving way to Russell Bellomy and the other backups in the second half.

Michigan will win convincingly. The only question is, will the Wolverines cover the 45.5 point spread? Just don’t expect Floyd Mayweather to bet on it.

UMass: first look

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Read our preseason UMass preview here.

It wasn’t easy, but Michigan picked up its first win of the season on Saturday against a feisty Air Force team. This week, the Wolverines host a team that can probably be described as the exact opposite of feisty – the UMass Minutemen. You may remember two years ago, in Rich Rodriguez’s last season, Michigan hosted UMass and had to hold off a late rally to beat the Minutemen. This year, Michigan enters as a 45.5-point favorite, the largest spread in Michigan history. Are we in store for another tense situation? I don’t think so. Let’s take a look at how UMass has fared in the first two weeks of the season.

UMass 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
UMass Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 3.0 | 22.5 121 | 88 41.0 | 33.0 109 | 93
Rushing Yards 81 | 283 480 | 522
Rush Avg. Per Game 40.5 | 141.5 119 | 74 240 | 261 108 | 113
Avg. Per Rush 1.4 | 4.7 4.9 | 4.6
Passing Yards 242 | 408 488 | 326
Pass Avg. Per Game 121 | 204 116 | 84 244 | 163 76 | 22
Total Offense 323 | 691 968 | 848
Total Off Avg. Per Game 161.5 | 345.5 121 | 85 484 | 424 107 | 81
Kick Return Average 23.1 | 22.2 40 | 47 26.5 | 32.0 108 | 114
Punt Return Average 1.7 | 2.0 97 | 96 19.7 | 11.0 109 | 96
Avg. Time of Possession 24:44 | 26:36 110 | 102 35:17 | 33:24
3rd Down Conversion Pct 21% | 35% 120 | 96 38% | 48% 62 | 99
Sacks By-Yards 1-3 | 2-21 109 | 89 4-33 | 1-10 65 | 14
Touchdowns Scored 1 | 6 10 | 8
Field Goals-Attempts 0-1 | 1-1 4-4 | 3-5
Red Zone Scores (1-2) 50% | (3-3) 100% 112 | 1 (9-10) 90% | (8-10) 80% 90 | 56
Red Zone Touchdowns (1-2) 50% | (2-3) 67% (6-10) 60% | (6-10) 60%

UMass has scored a grand total of six points in its first two games, getting shut out 37-0 by UConn in Week 1 and throttled 45-6 by Indiana last week. In those two games, UMass was held to just 81 yards rushing on 60 carries. That’s just 1.4 yards per carry. The passing game fared slightly better, but an average of just 121 yards per game has the Minutemen ranked 116th nationally.

Defensively, UMass is allowing 484 yards of offense per game, 240 on the ground and 244 through the air. UConn and Indiana averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

UConn was the team that really shut down the Minutemen, holding them to just 59 yards of total offense and three first downs. In fact, UMass never even took a snap on UConn’s side of the 50. Redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn completed just 9 of 22 passes for 56 yards and an interception in the game.

Head coach Charley Molnar is familiar with Michigan (photo from Matthew Cavanaugh, Boston Globe)

Saturday’s game against Indiana should show what we can expect to see from Michigan and Denard Robinson this weekend. IU quarterback Tre Roberson completed 6-of-13 passes for 76 yards, a touchdown and an interception before getting injured. But it was his legs that did the damage, rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns on five carries. Like Denard against Air Force, Roberson used a pair of long touchdown runs (50 yards and 39) to get the job done.

The running back is former Michigan back Michael Cox (pictured above). He had five carries for negative four yards against UConn but led the Minutemen with 15 carries for 36 yards against Indiana. Senior Chris Burns got 11 carries for 17 yards in Week 1 but lost the starting job to Cox and got a somewhat scathing review from head coach Charley Molnar after that performance.

“Burns’ performance last week was not what he had hoped for,” Molnar said. “For a guy who basically had the job, every rep with the starters throughout summer camp, [he] just didn’t handle some of his responsibilities like a guy who’s been around and should have.”

Speaking of Molnar, you may remember his name. He’s the first-year head coach of UMass, coming to Amherst from some place called South Bend. He was Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the last two seasons and after following Brian Kelly from Central Michigan to Cincinnati to Notre Dame, got his first head coaching gig at UMass. His aim is to transform the Minutemen into a no-huddle spread attack, but it will take some time to put in place and get the right recruits at a first-year FBS program.

When UMass visits Ann Arbor on Saturday, we still won’t learn anything from Michigan, but it will be one last chance for the offense to find its rhythm, the defense to work on its technique, and Denard to pad his stats before the real schedule begins – Notre Dame and the Big Ten.

5-Spot Challenge: Week 3

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Congratulations to chicagoblue for capturing Week 2 of the 5-Spot Challenge. He was just four away from correctly predicting the total combined rushing yards for both teams, 10 away from Michigan’s passing yards, and 10 away from Air Force running back Cody Getz’s rushing total. To make his feat even more impressive, he was the only contestant to correctly predict Michigan’s point total of 31 (he was 11 short of Air Force’s, however). His differential of 181 was 22 better than second place Maizenblu62 who amazingly was only one yard off of the total combined rushing yards and four off of Michigan’s passing total.

Brad and crp12qb were each just four away from the total combined rushing yards. KashKaav was just five away from Gallon and Gardner’s combined receiving yards, while clelwell was the closest to Getz’s rushing total (seven away).

Altogether, 15 contestants all picked Michigan to win and did so by an average score of 39-17. Not a single person picked Michigan to score less than the 31 it did and not a single person picked Air Force to score 25 or more. Shows how much we know!

You can find the weekly standings on the right sidebar or by clicking here, and the overall standings are also on the right sidebar or by clicking here.

This week, Michigan hosts a UMass team that has been outscored 87-6 in its first two games. The spread opened at 40.5 points, the most in Michigan history, so it should be a fun week of picks for the 5-Spot Challenge. Good luck!