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Posted on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Breaking down the UMass-Michigan football game with Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette

By Michael Rothstein

The Michigan football team faces its second team in three weeks from the Northeast. However, UMass is not expected to be as competitive as its neighbor to the south and former FCS school-turned-Big East team, Connecticut.

Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette covers UMass football and took a few minutes to chat about the FCS-FBS letter jumble of a matchup taking place Saturday at noon on the Big Ten Network.

Q: What's been the feeling around this Massachusetts team this week, especially after James Madison winning last week? Matt Vautour: It seems like a CAA team or two upsets an FBS team every year, but those wins have usually come over lower-level FBS teams - Northwestern, Temple, etc. Virginia Tech is certainly the best team a CAA school has knocked off. That said, I'm not sure how much inspiration UMass really draws from it.

I think the players and the coaching staff (are) pretty happy to be 2-0. UMass was picked eighth in the CAA preseason poll coming off a year where it was 5-6, so having a winning record and being ranked seem like significant accomplishments. The UMass fan base is excited about this game because its Michigan, but I think most fans would be happy if the Minutemen can simply avoid getting injured or badly blown out.


UMass senior running back John Griffin.

Associated Press

Q: What would you say is the biggest strength of this UMass team? Its biggest weakness? MV: Strengths would be running backs and linebackers. When Northeastern and Hofstra both dropped their football programs, UMass picked up a handful of their former players, including John Griffin. He's a senior running back who rushed for 1,009 yards last year for Northeastern. His arrival has given the Minutemen a nice one-two punch at tailback with Jonathan Hernandez.

I think junior linebacker Tyler Holmes is the best overall football player on UMass roster. He makes a ton of tackles most games and has a great knack for being in the right place to make big momentum plays.

"The biggest obvious weakness is inexperience. Nobody on the defensive line had ever started a game there before this year, and four of the eight guys that will play are redshirt freshmen. Beyond that, UMass has done a nice job of masking (its) weaknesses so far. But I have a feeling there will be issues that get exposed on Saturday that William & Mary and Holy Cross weren't able to exploit.

Q: Can anyone on UMass stop Denard Robinson? MV: Can anyone anywhere stop Denard Robinson? UMass hasn't faced anyone like him in a long time, and it's not like UMass has someone who can replicate what he does in practice. I'm curious to see what sort of scheme the Minutemen will use in an attempt to slow him down.

Q: What's the best case/worst case scenario for UMass? In other words, what needs to happen for the Minutemen to win? How does a blowout happen? MV: For UMass to have a chance, it would obviously need to minimize mistakes as much as possible. The Minutemen would need to avoid turnovers of their own and perhaps force a few. UMass needs to be effective on first down on offense to avoid being in long passing downs. A touchdown on defense or special teams would be big as well. They need Michigan to perhaps have a little post-Notre Dame lull and not be as focused or as sharp. After that, they'll need to be a little lucky.

A blowout seems more plausible. UMass hasn't faced a good dual-threat quarterback in a while, and if Robinson gets going early, things could unravel fast. The Minutemen can't afford to turn the ball over. Naturally, if they can avoid falling behind early, their confidence goes up. An early hole could drain their belief in their ability to win pretty fast. Q: How much will the Kansas State experience from a year ago help this UMass team? MV: I'm guessing not much. UMass has a lot of players in key spots that didn't play much in that game.

Follow Matt Vautour's stuff online at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and check him out on Twitter @GazetteUMass

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Sat, Sep 18, 2010 : 7:21 a.m.

...I went to school with Matt Vautour. That's funny; I didn't expect to see his name here. (Yes, I also graduated from UMass, many long years ago, so my loyalties are somewhat divided today)

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:37 p.m.

I would expect a lot of run blitzing, with hope that the linebackers and secondary can control the outside. Michigan will react with a lot of short passes into the flats, and maybe Stonum can get deep a couple of times. I don't think Michigan will have trouble getting to 35 points. More a test for the defense. Can the defensive line do enough that the secondary will have help. If the 3-3-5 stack can keep the run in check, UMass will have trouble scoring. I'm going to guess, 38-10, Michigan.

3 And Out

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:29 p.m.

How to stop D Rob: 1) you dont stop D Rob...but you can slow down that offense due to its limitations and lack of explosive talent. 2) Play press coverage all day on UMs small wide outs.... bust them up and take them off of their routes. 3) Its crucial that your Safetys read their keys all day, and dont get sucked up in the play. Better to have them stay back, protect the middle of the field and watch UMs OL for the keys... the OL will not be downfield on designed passing plays... and if you see D Rob step up and the OL stay there, its pretty much a pass unless D Rob tucks it and runs....but your Safetys must stay home. 4) D Rob does not have a big down field arm so dont worry too much about the deep ball but definitely play hashes and dont give up the middle of the the slot guy. 5) DEs dont rush too hard up the field and must play contain rather than a typical pass rush. Hold your lanes because D Rob isnt going to drop back and sit in the pocket so rushing him like that is not usually going to work. 6) DL and LBS hold your lanes and dont get sucked up in to ball fakes... UMs RBs are weak and more than likely he will keep the ball. 7) LBs get off your blocks downfield...this is critical...UMs OL did a nice job blocking downfield for D Rob last week. 8) LBs read your keys... 9) Put some hats on D Rob...punish him. ND did a pretty good job with that last week...sooner or later he wont get up. 10) if none of that works...take off his shoes when you tackle him.;)

Sean T.

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 3:50 p.m.

You can never count out any team fellas, though I think we should do really well. I doubt that UMASS has the defensive skill players to keep up with us but they aren't pushovers either. Just a reminder, there's not one poster that can affect how our Wolverines play, positively or negatively. Hail


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Good to finally see a string of positive comments instead of naysayers and trolls. If this team stays healthy and executes, there isn't a team on the schedule they can't beat. You can't tackle what you can't catch. RR and this exciting offense, along with the athletes M attracts are a winning combination. And, with surprising ball control. GO BLUE!!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 1:50 p.m.

This is going to be an ugly game. I've said it before, I expect Denard to tone it down a bit, no sense in having him get 20-25 carries and 30 throws. He'll probably be out by halftime, to give Gardner/Forcier some reps finally. I was extremely nervous against UConn, since I didn't know what to expect. I knew what to expect against Notre Dame, but I didn't know if we'd win the game. Now, finally, I can relax for a couple weeks. Don't spin me tales of Toledo or Appalachian State, this isn't the conservative, hand-the-ball-up-the-middle Lloyd Carr Michigan team that can occasionally be stymied by inferior competition, or the completely inept Michigan team lacking a QB under a new system. This is a high-flying offensive attack that UMass has no chance of slowing down, nor does Bowling Green. Michigan is 4-0.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

I think we can do just about whatever we want. The Umass defensive front will not be able to stop us, and our D will be able to fly around without being worried about a mistake here or there. This could be ugly....I'm thinking 45-7. Even worse if RR tries to prove a point.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11 a.m.

What a great time to test the Tate-and-Denard-in-the-same-backfield-formation. If I'm a Def. Coord., then my headache just got a little bit more complicated (especially since our RBs have not exactly lit anybody up....)


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

MikeB, I hope the scenario you mentioned in your second paragraph comes true and that U-M had a big enough lead in the 2nd half to let some of the reserves play and gain some experience.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:51 a.m.

I'm glad to hear that their D-line is weak. That plays right into Michigan's strength... the O-line and the run game in general. People will cite that Michigan's RBs have struggled thus far but honestly, no team has tried to take away Denard. Both ND and UMass bought the play-action fake all game long which accounts for why Denard ran the ball 28-29 times in each game. Teams are going to start to look to take away that QB keeper and when they do, the RB lanes are going to open up like Moses and the red sea. Just watch.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

Txmaizeenblue/tulsatom, I agree they have nothing to lose and coming out really aggressively on defense is an excellent idea. On offense, go long and test the secondary, have an extra TE in to block and try to burn the secondary on the corners and in crossing routes will force UM to lighten up on the line and perhaps open the running game up. Having said that, I don't believe there will be a post-ND let down, too many young guys wanting to succeed. I do hope UM focuses on the running game and (fingers crossed) lets Devin and Tate have snaps in the second half - you can see I am hoping for a comfortable lead at half time


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 8:20 a.m.

I agree, Txmaizeenblue. If I were UMASS, I'd stack the line and try to make Denard pass. However, I think Denard is a good enough passer to take advantage of whatever they give him. If U-M comes to play, it ought to be a 42-14 kind of game for the home team. I just hope they don't take UMASS lightly, or else the Appy State and Toledo memories may return and the bubble will burst on the season. I don't think it will, though. Rich Rod will hopefully have them ready to play a good game.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:47 a.m.

If the UMass coach is thinking straight he comes into this game with nothing to lose, so if I was him I would take big chances on defense. I would bull rush and fill every hole in effort to stop Denard's running game. Make Michigan air it out. I think it would be fun to see what happens. I actually think it would be good for Denard's development also. I'd love to see him forced to sit in the pocket and throw. Let's see what he can do. If he responds well, the rest of the Big Ten will shudder