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Posted on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 4 p.m.

UMass football program hopes to follow the same path as James Madison - beat an FBS school

By Michael Rothstein


UMass quarterback Kyle Havens, who has thrown for 516 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, isn't concerned about playing at Michigan Stadium. “It is just another football game,” he said.

Associated Press

As the seconds ticked down in his hometown of Blacksburg, Va., University of Massachusetts linebacker Tyler Holmes’ phone began to blow up.

He and the rest of the Minutemen finished beating Holy Cross, 31-7, last Saturday afternoon when word arrived about a potential upset in Virginia.

James Madison, a Football Championship Subdivision school that, like UMass is a Colonial Athletic Association member, was closing in on becoming the second lower-division school to beat a ranked Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, then-No. 13 Virginia Tech.

Despite the recent success of FCS (formerly Division I-AA) teams against FBS (I-A) opponents -- the lower division had six wins over the upper division in the first two weeks of the season -- seeing the Hokies go down, 21-16, to JMU was stunning.

“I was very surprised,” Holmes said Tuesday. “In the locker room after the game, it was coming down to the end, so we kept hearing and getting updates. We finally put on the TV and, when I saw it, I just didn’t believe it. Virginia Tech has a premier program.

“But, you know, that just tells you that any Saturday, anything can happen.”

That’s what Holmes and his teammates are banking on Saturday (noon, Big Ten Network) when UMass (2-0) visits Ann Arbor to play No. 20 Michigan (2-0), which has its own harrowing FCS experiences.

Then-No. 5 Michigan lost to Appalachian State, 34-32, in 2007 to become the first ranked FBS team to lose to a FCS school.

Part of the reason for lower-division schools knocking of FBS teams comes from more talent dispersion. For instance, the CAA had five players drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft, including former UMass offensive tackle Vlad Ducasse.

The Big East, in comparison, had 18 players drafted and the Big Ten had 34. So the talent isn’t quite equal, but it is getting closer.

“There’s players everywhere,” Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez said. “You think it’s coach-speak and coaches saying ‘Well, you’ve got to be aware.’ There’s players everywhere. It’s not like you’re playing 18- and 19-year-old kids against 14-year-olds.

“The good teams, the top 25, 30 teams are really, really good and really, really competitive. If you play an average or below-average FCS team, a Division I team is not going to have any problem. If you’re playing a good one, you’re going to have to play. We’re playing a good one.”

There’s little question about that. The CAA, which changed conference names from the Atlantic 10 earlier this decade, has perennially been one of the strongest FCS leagues. UMass is No. 15 in the FCS coaches poll, the lowest of seven ranked CAA schools.

Plus, those same CAA schools typically play a power FBS school every year. Last year, UMass went to Kansas State in the season-opener and almost beat the Wildcats before falling, 21-17.

The CAA is 3-3 against the ACC in the past two years and the league has won 19 games against FBS opponents since 2000.

That experience, combined with seeing what James Madison and Appalachian State accomplished, are why the Minutemen have confidence entering Saturday.

“It’s not that different at all,” UMass sophomore quarterback Kyle Havens said. “Just a bigger stage.

“… I know it sounds different because we will be in front of a lot of people, but in reality it is just another football game."

Saturday’s crowd at Michigan Stadium will be the largest to watch a UMass sporting event, likely more than twice the size of the previous record, when 53,190 watched No. 10-ranked Texas Tech beat the visiting Minutemen in 2008.

In last week’s 31-7 win over Holy Cross, there were 16,352 fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. That was the 16th-largest crowd in UMass home football history.

What concerns UMass the most is identical to the main concern of every team Michigan will face this year -- sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson.

“That’s the unanswered question," UMass coach Kevin Morris said. "Isn’t it.”

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



Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:14 a.m.

Oh my goodness, I am going to mark this day down!! 3 and Out actually provided a post without any negativity in it!!! It must be Friday!

3 And Out

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

yes maiz...they definitely need to get the running game going... good call...more reps to the backs try to get some rhythm going with them...mix Fitz in there too...


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 6:24 p.m.

I am not too concerned with how many points the Wolverines can score against UMASS. I am more concerned that they correct the mistakes they made in games one and two. Also, I would like to see Tate and D Gardner get some quality playing time. They need to get the running game going.

3 And Out

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

Actually Scooter, since you insist on following me around the board here and stalking my posts.... UMass has a better shot at beating Michigan than Bowling Green has....but IU has a better shot than both of them... its on the road where Rich Rod's teams struggle and Tandon Doss and the IU receiving corps lead by a returning QB and strong OL will certainly put up points vs. our weak D. After that MSU is a daunting task even at home... still sticking to my 5-7 prediction Scooter... maybe 6-6 at best but the defensive problems, lack of explosive RBs, poor coaching and bad kicking game will offset the incredible D Rob and relatively strong OL.

Sean T.

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

I hope we don't need Robinson for more than a series or two, everyone else needs to step up! UMASS cannot be counted out, they have a huge O-line and a decent front-four on defense. I hear that they have two good corners also. I don't have enough information on them to determine more of their strengths and their weaknesses but will expect us to have better athletes across the board. Let's hope they can't throw deep! Go Blue

Robbie Webb.

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:47 p.m.

3 and Out's excuses for this Saturday after a Michigan victory: Michigan has proved nothing so far, they beat Umass. Umass is not even an FBS school. Wait until Bowling Green, they'll lose that game for sure. I know because I'm 3 and Out and I've been spot on with everything so far.

Robbie Webb.

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:42 p.m.

Haha! Yeah, okay 3 and IN, keep dreaming. And then he puts, ''Go Blue'' at the end. Unbelievable. If Uconn and Notre dame couldn't get 30 points up, what on Eart possesses you to think Umass will? So far 3 and Out is 0-3.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

Well in 2008 against Toledo, I actually think that Toledo had a better football team than Michigan did! But there was no excuse for Appy State, that was just flat out bad coaching in that disaster!!


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

The thing I'm concerned about is where is U-M's mind right now. If their focus is on UMASS and they come to ready to play, it should be a decisive victory for Michigan. If the team is still congratulating itself after the big win at Notre Dame, UMASS is a good enough team to pull the upset. I am hoping the team team has moved on mentally to the game at hand, because talent-wise U-M should win comfortably. If U-M learned anything from the Appalachian State game in 2007 and the Toledo game in 2008, it is to not take any opponent lightly.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

49-14 Michigan


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

@3 and out......see you saturday..wait, no we blue is gonna win and win big..but about mid week you will be back to say we are gonna lose to our next opponent..your a joke. gonna be a lot of scoring this week and wont have to worry about a letdown..mi 42 umass 6


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 8:01 a.m.

I hope Michigan does not come out and diddle around and make this thing closer that it should be. I hope they can put this away at half time and Denard only plays the first half so we can get a good look at what Devin can do with the ball.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:48 a.m.

I hope Michigan does not come out and diddle around and make this thing closer that it should be. I hope they can put this away at half time and Denard only plays the first half so we can get a good look at what Devin can do with the ball.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

0-3 on predictions for 3 and Out.

3 And Out

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 4:43 a.m.

UMass jumps out to an early lead punching Michigan's D in the face with a long ball and quieting the Big House. D Rob gets his yds and TDs but in the end RR's inability to recruit a decent kicker is the deciding factor. UMass 35 Michigan 34.... you heard it here first. Go Blue!


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 9:50 p.m.

Denard has more yards himself than 9 of the top 25 teams


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 9:20 p.m.

The title of this article should be "Michael Rothstein Hopes that UMass football program follows the same path as James Madison - beat an FBS school"


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 8:53 p.m.

This kind of game never used to be a question. Hold the stiff upper lip. These are sad days.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

@sparty: that comment is trash talk, not "hopes" that Denard will get hurt. (It's silly trash talk, but that's all it is). I would say that Michigan better show up to play, as this game has "trap" all over it. Coming after a big win over a long time rival, getting all sorts of hype, newly ranked. This is the type of game Michigan has historically struggled.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 7:51 p.m.

we will handle u.mass i am confident of that.. as long as we remember the past and never forget it, we should be fine..we will come out hungry & shut them down. (we wont see no post from denard robertson after this game.wish trolls would go away) gooooooo blue


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 6:43 p.m.

Make sure that Mr. Havens realizes that playing Michigan in the Big House is NOT "just another football game".


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Good Luck UMass! Have fun trying to stop THEE DENARD ROBINSON! GO BLUE BABY! We improve to 3-0 on Saturday

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

UMass is better than half the teams in the MAC, maybe more. This is not a gimme by any means. UMass is to Delaware State as Wisconsin is to San Jose State. Hopefully the players understand that.

David Vande Bunte

Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 4:40 p.m.

If Notre Dame's defense couldn't stop Denard Robinson, what hope does UMass have? Michigan is going to score 40+.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

They can hope all they want. But, the Minutemen are getting a serious beat-down on Saturday. Michigan's athleticism will be WAY too much for U-Mass, and far more than a Holy Cross will ever have. At least U-Mass will get a far bigger payout than they'd get playing at home against another FCS school.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 3:33 p.m.

Maybe if Va Tech had Denard Robinson they wouldn't have lost... just sayin' I'm sorry but UMass is going to get whooped.