Michigan vs. UMASS Primer

Going to the game…a tailgate… maybe just the day with watching with friends on TV? Don't be caught off guard with what happens on the field, Saturday. Know your opponent with the UMASS Primer.

Each week we scout Michigan's opponent. We'll start with the basics, and then explore some relevant match-ups. For those that want to know more, we'll sprinkle in a mixture of history, reflection, and philosophy for a comprehensive look.

#15 (FCS) UMASS (2-0) at #22 (FBS) Michigan (2-0)

UMASS Schedule:
(W) (W) William & Mary 27-23
(W) Holy Cross 31-7

Michigan Schedule:
(W) UCONN 30-10
(W) at Notre Dame 28-24

UMASS Players to Watch:
QB Kyle Havens (Sr. #12) Also started in '09; 64.5 completion percentage in '10; 258 ypg; 3 TD's, 0 int's.
RB Jonathan Hernandez (Jr. #22) Leads team in rushing 203 yds; CAA player of the week (9/4)
RB John Griffin (Sr. #28) Leads the team in TD's (3); 2nd on the team in rushing 77.5 ypg; All-CAA in '09.
WR Anthony Nelson (Sr. #2) Leads team in receptions (13) and receiving yards (181).
LB Tyler Holmes (Jr. #36) CAA defensive player of the week (9/4); leads team in Int's and TFL's

Today we'll just try to make you the smartest person in the room, in your row or in your section.

It would appear that after just two games the Minutemen are performing above expectations in the Football Championship Subdivision. Starting the season unranked and only returning four starters on offense and four starters on defense, they are currently ranked 15th as one of the better teams in the FCS. They downed #4 William and Mary to start the season and last week, they beat #26 Holy Cross rather easily. Both games were at home.

UMASS plays in the Colonial Athletic Association, a group that includes the Michigan look-alikes in Delaware. It also includes James Madison, who last weekend became the second FCS squad to beat a ranked FBS team (#13 VA Tech 21-16) and Villanova who has been invited, but not formally to join the Big East?
IN 2009, the CAA had two divisions with six teams in each, but the Hofstra and Northeastern football programs were eliminated for budgetary reasons at the end of the year. The ten remaining teams look very familiar if you follow Big Ten basketball in December. UMASS picked up five players from those teams. Three of those players start on a team that lost 14 starters a year ago. Two of those starters are key offensive players.

Anthony Nelson (#2) is a senior transfer from Hofstra. He's, by far, their go-to receiver leading the team in receptions and yards.  Nelson softens the blow of losing 2,500 yards worth of receivers due to graduation. Senior transfer John Griffin (#28) came from Northeastern after rushing for over 1000 yards last season and was named to the all CAA team and is the program's last team MVP. This year Griffin leads the team in touchdowns (3) and got the game winning score late against William and Mary.

Despite the accolades, Griffin is sharing the ball with Jonathan Hernandez (Jr. #22). Hernandez leads the team in rushing (102 ypg) and was named the CAA player of the week in the opener. Both Hernandez and Griffin are a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. There is virtually no experience behind them, so this strong duo will be relied upon heavily all season.

At quarterback, Kyle Havens (Sr. #12) feels more comfortable entering his second year. As a junior college transfer in '09, Havens won the competition but struggled as the season wore on. Havens threw for nearly 200 ypg, but only completed 55% of his passes, nine TD's 15 picks, and had a pretty low QB rating of 116. This year he's throwing 258 ypg, completing 64% of his passes and has no picks to go with his three touchdowns.

Head Coach Kevin Morris is an offensive coach. Pryor to being named head coach he was the O.C. and QB Coach for five seasons at UMASS and for another five seasons previous to that at other schools. Coach Morris also spent five seasons as a head coach at Worcester Polytech from 93-98. He started coaching in 1986.

Defensively, UMASS has a lone standout in junior linebacker Tyler Holmes (#36), a one man wrecking crew. Holmes leads the team in picks, sacks, TFL's and forced fumbles.

The Chances of UMASS Winning
Simply stated it's not very good. Look at UMASS however as closer to App State than Delaware State.

Last year, Michigan faced an unranked and underwhelming Delaware State team forced to play their back-up quarterback. The Wolverines won 63-6. This time around they'll face an experienced QB in Havens who threw for nearly 300 yards last week and has yet to turn the ball over. UMASS will probably score a few times on Michigan's first unit.

UMASS is no stranger to playing FBS schools. They have had ten contests in the past 11 years, and one could argue they've had some close calls in four of the past five meetings including a four point loss to Kansas State last season. They were within ten of #12 Boston College in '07 and lost by a single point to Navy in '06. That can't be any worse than the Sunbelt.

Coach Rich Rodriguez summed up the situation pretty well earlier this week.

"The parity is more than it's ever been.  There's already been, what, five or six this year of FCS schools beating FBS schools; is that right?  How do you figure?  How does Kansas lose an opener to North Dakota state, and then they play a very good Georgia Tech team (and win)?"

What it means is "The difference is, in the FCS level, the good teams, the Top-25, 30 teams, are really, really good, and really competitive," says Rodriguez. "Now, if you play a middle or average or below average FCS team, the Division I teams are not going to have a any problem.  But if you play a good one, you're going to have to play.  We are playing a good one, UMASS is one of the better ones in the FCS.  So our guys will see that on film and they will get their attention."

Look for Denard Robinson (So. #16) to start, but hopefully he'll be able to rest up. Robinson won't produce the numbers he had last week against Notre Dame because if he were to get past 300 yards of total offense without turning the ball over and the team doesn't  miss field goals, that should be enough for the Michigan defense to get by. Look for the Wolverines 1st unit to be out there for at least a half and to win by 20-30 points.

Notables
UMASS currently has six former players in the NFL, a record for them. In the 2010 NFL draft, the New York Jets selected O-lineman Vladimir Ducasse. He's fighting for the starting spot.

The long snapper, who you may see a lot in this game, is Travis Tripucka (Jr. #85), the son of former Pistons forward Kelly Tripucka.

UMass will play before the largest crowd ever to watch a school sporting event on Saturday at Michigan -- and by more than double the highest previous crowd. The record to watch UMass play was 53,190 at Texas Tech in 2008.

UMASS has four starters that have transferred from FBS schools. One of them is TE Andrew Krevis (Sr. #82), formerly of Eastern Michigan. Krevis made his first start last week.

UMASS has some notable alumni, including quarterback Greg Landry, a first round draft pick of the Detroit Lions, the last Lions quarterback to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

ENJOY THE GAME!


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