That thud heard over the weekend was Michigan making a not-so-soft landing in reality land after spending the first two weeks of the season floating in a somewhat illusionary la-la land.
After wins over Connecticut and Notre Dame, studded with spectacular performances from sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, the euphoria was intoxicating. Ann Arbor was adrift in talk of national rankings, a Heisman Trophy candidacy, and the Wolverines being back -- all the way back.
That enthusiastic express was slowed considerably by Michigan's somewhat underwhelming 42-37 win over Massachusetts that moved the Wolverines to 3-0, but exposed some critical issues this team had been able to mask in its previous outings.
"We have some warts. Let's not pretend," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez lamented after a game in which his team watched UMass build an early 10-point lead.
"You can't be upset with a win, but you can be upset with the way you played, and we did not play well. We didn't play well at all defensively. Special teams were awful, and on offense we made a few mistakes that killed us."
The Wolverines have another week to get things cleaned up before they jump into the Big Ten schedule. Bowling Green is rebuilding and should not offer much resistance. The Wolverines should get off to a 4-0 start, but after the job UMass did to expose Michigan's multitude of soft spots, there are worries about the long-term viability of this team.
"One thing I can tell you is that in the locker room the guys knew it," Rodriguez said about his team's poor performance. "That's one thing about them. They were happy with the win, but it will be about as quiet of a winning locker room as you will ever see."
-- Michigan Stadium, which just underwent extensive renovations, will have permanent lighting installed before the end of the year. The lights will be in place before "The Big Chill at the Big House," an outdoor hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State, on Dec. 11, and will allow the football Wolverines to practice at night, plus eliminate the need for rental lights for 3:30 games. Michigan will play its first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium against Notre Dame next September.
-- Michigan QB Denard Robinson and RB Vincent Smith were responsible for all 94 yards in Michigan's eight-play, 94-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter against UMass. Robinson finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run that made it 35-17.
-- Junior RB Michael Shaw rushed for a career-high 126 yards on 12 carries and scored three touchdowns in the win over UMass.
-- Michigan QB Denard Robinson completed 10 of 14 passes for 241 yards against UMass -- his third consecutive game with more than 100 passing yards and 100 rushing yards. Robinson completed four passes of 35 yards or more -- 36, 43, 66, 46.
GAME BALL GOES TO:
WR Darryl Stonum -- Stonum caught two touchdown passes from QB Denard Robinson in a 45-second span in the closing moments of the first half against UMass. Stonum had three receptions for 121 yards in the game, including a 66-yarder for a touchdown.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
DB Jordan Kovacs -- The sophomore and former walk-on was a bright spot for the Michigan defense against UMass. Kovacs had 11 tackles, one stop behind the line, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Kovacs also broke up a UMass two-point conversion attempt in the final minutes of the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"You can't be upset with a win, but you can be upset with the way you played, and we did not play well." -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez on his team's lackluster showing against UMass.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Michigan's offense was under pressure against UMass, forced to play catch-up and try to match the Minutemen score for score. The Wolverines got a career-best performance from junior RB Michael Shaw with 126 yards and three touchdowns, and a pair of touchdown receptions from junior WR Darryl Stonum. The Michigan offense got touchdowns on five straight possessions in the middle portion of the game, and surpassed 500 yards of total offense for the second straight week.
STILL NEEDS WORK:
The Michigan defense, suspected of being a potential problem throughout the preseason, showed its weaknesses against a determined UMass team that put up 20 fourth-quarter points on the Wolverines. Massachusetts ran the ball at will early in the game, building a 17-7 lead. The Wolverines surrendered 439 yards to the Minutemen, and a frowning Rich Rodriguez sounded like anything but a coach off to a 3-0 start when he assessed his team's inability to slow UMass. "That simply wasn't acceptable or the way we're supposed to play defense here at Michigan," he said.
-- WR Junior Hemingway, who had been out with a hamstring injury, made his season debut against UMass and had a 36-yard reception in the second quarter, his only reception of the game.
-- S Cameron Gordon intercepted a Massachusetts pass in the fourth quarter of a very close game, but promptly fumbled it. It was the first pick of his Michigan career.
-- OL John Ferrara missed the UMass game, sidelined with a hand injury.
-- LB Brandon Herron did not play against the Minutemen as he continues to nurse an injured ankle.
-- S Mike Williams sat out the Wolverines' game with UMass as he recovers from a concussion.
-- LB Mike Jones suffered a broken leg in the win over Notre Dame and will likely miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery.
The TSX Files: Michigan Post-UMass
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