Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson is old school -- reserved, businesslike, and thoroughly invested in his job. Jackson has been coaching college football for more than 30 years, and in that time, has never demonstrated that he is prone to excessive hyperbole.
In the days leading up to the 2009 season, when Jackson called then Michigan freshman Denard Robinson "the fastest college football player he had ever seen," that was something. Jackson had seen the likes of Reggie Bush, but he gave Robinson the edge in a footrace.
Now we know what he was talking about, and that again, there was no embellishment, no exaggeration involved. Fred Jackson was just shooting straight, like he always has. And it appears his assessment of the then raw and somewhat overwhelmed freshman was dead on accurate.
Robinson snapped the college football world to attention in the first week of the season when, in the first start of his career, he rushed for 197 yards and passed for another 186 in a win over UConn. That performance got him plenty of acclaim, but well, that was UConn.
Michigan's September showdown with rival Notre Dame would be a much more accurate measuring stick, right? Robinson had 502 yards of total offense, scored the winning touchdown with 27 seconds left, and set a Big Ten quarterback rushing record with 258 yards against the Irish. He passed for another 244 yards, and had an 87-yard touchdown run -- the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
Robinson was fast when he arrived at Michigan in the summer of 2009, but he just had no clue what he was doing. Jackson saw the speed, and knew the Wolverines would put it to use, but all in good time. After two straight losing seasons, this sure seems like a good time for Denard Robinson and Michigan.
--Sophomore QB Denard Robinson gained national offensive player of the week honors for the second straight week after his 502 yards of total offense in Michigan's 28-24 win over Notre Dame.
--RB Stephen Hopkins scored the first touchdown of his career on the first play of his college career. The freshman took the ball just one yard over the right side to give Michigan a touchdown lead in the first quarter of the win over Notre Dame.
--Robinson set the Big Ten quarterback rushing record with his 258 yards on 28 carries in the win over Notre Dame. Robinson had the best road rushing performance by any player in Michigan history, and the fifth-best single-game effort in school history.
--PK Seth Broekhuizen's first career point was an important one -- the redshirt freshman hit the extra point kick that followed Robinson's touchdown run with 27 seconds left in the win over Notre Dame.
SERIES HISTORY: First meeting.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: It's just two games into the season, but nobody has been able to solve Michigan's offense that is based around the fact that Denard Robinson is the fastest guy on the field. Give him a couple blocks and some space, and see if anyone can catch him. Robinson's speed is no secret, but his passing has been efficient and effective, which makes Michigan a much tougher opponent to scheme against. The Wolverines spread the ball around when they throw, and that capability further increases the opposition's challenge defending this unit.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Michigan looked at this group as a potentially huge liability when the season started, but through two games, the Wolverines have played well enough to win, and that meets or exceeds expectations. Fifth-year senior LB Jonas Mouton has emerged as the emotional leader with his aggressive play and vocal approach. Sophomore S Jordan Kovacs exemplifies the heart of this group as the former walk-on collected 10 tackles and an interception in the Notre Dame game. The Wolverines have been good at not allowing the home run, and they have also benefited greatly from the much improved production of the offense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We'll do whatever we have to take to win the game. I'm just telling you -- our game plan is whatever we've got to do to win the game and then when he (QB Denard Robinson) gets in the game, okay, as the game goes along, teams play us a certain way, what do we got to do to win this game." -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez on he will utilize QB Denard Robinson against UMass.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Massachusetts at Michigan, Sept. 18 -- The Wolverines (2-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) are riding a very unexpected surge of momentum, and many in the fold are thinking this team could be 5-0 when it faces rival Michigan State to open Big Ten play in October.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Michigan is going to ride QB Denard Robinson's fleet feet as far as they will carry the Wolverines, so unless UMass takes a defensive approach to lock down Robinson at any cost, he should be off to the races again. Michigan cannot afford to experience a lapse against a team from a lower division, and with the humbling loss to Appalachian State still fresh in their minds, the Wolverines likely won't let that happen. They are riding some very positive momentum, and need to keep that ride going.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DB Jordan Kovacs -- A walk-on who made the team last year, and then was starting by midseason, Kovacs has earned a scholarship. He is now one of the playmakers on the back end of the defense, as demonstrated by his 10 tackles and an interception against Notre Dame.
LB Jonas Mouton -- The Los Angeles product was everywhere in the win at Notre Dame, collecting 13 stops and an interception. He is playing the active, aggressive style Michigan needs to be successful.
DB Cam Gordon -- The sophomore had a rough outing at Notre Dame, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said it was more "technique" related, and not a big concern. Gordon made the move from receiver to the defensive backfield in the spring and is still learning the position, facing live fire.
WR Roy Roundtree -- Internal bleeding issues threatened to keep Roundtree out of the Notre Dame game, but he was cleared by team doctors on Thursday, and contributed some big receptions against the Fighting Irish. Rodriguez credits Roundtree with being an intense competitor who plays the game faster once the action starts.
--LB Mike Jones suffered a broken leg in the win over Notre Dame and is expected to undergo surgery and likely miss the remainder of the season.
--PK Justin Meram is a member of Michigan's varsity soccer team, which limits his availability for practice time with the football team.
--OL Elliott Mealer, who suffered a shoulder injury in an automobile accident that took the life of his girlfriend and his father before Mealer enrolled at Michigan, is still working his way back into the playing rotation. Mealer was part of the field-goal and extra-point protection unit against UConn and Notre Dame.
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