Republican: Michigan Taking UMass Seriously - UMass Athletics

Republican: Michigan Taking UMass Seriously

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Notre Dame one week. The University of Massachusetts the next. In the world of college football, that sounds like a recipe for a letdown, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said not to expect it from his team.

"Our guys were really focused at practice. They seem to be into it," said Rodriguez, whose Big Ten team welcomes UMass to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday.

"I have said before, there is a difference between good (Football Championship Subdivision) programs and middle-of-the pack FCS teams. UMass is a really good team. They have our players' attention."

Read the whole story in the Springfield Republican.

Michigan taking UMass very seriously in Saturday's game

Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 7:09 PM     Updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 7:21 PM
Ron Chimelis, The Republican Ron Chimelis, The Republican 
9-15-10-michigan.JPGMichigan coach Rich Rodriguez gestures to his team during second half against Notre Dame in an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind. on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24. Michigan plays UMass this Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Notre Dame one week. The University of Massachusetts the next.

In the world of college football, that sounds like a recipe for a letdown, but Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said not to expect it from his team.

"Our guys were really focused at practice. They seem to be into it," said Rodriguez, whose Big Ten team welcomes UMass to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday.

"I have said before, there is a difference between good (Football Championship Subdivision) programs and middle-of-the pack FCS teams. UMass is a really good team.

"They have our players' attention."

Ranked 16th in this week's FCS poll, UMass (2-0) nonetheless looks like a minor detour on Michigan's big-time schedule.

The Wolverines (2-0) are coming off a 28-24 win over Notre Dame. They have also beaten Connecticut.

Rodriguez said his team had a poorer focus at last week's Tuesday practice, when it had Notre Dame on its radar, than it did this Tuesday in preparing for UMass.

Speaking on a teleconference call Wednesday, Rodriguez said the days of taking FCS teams lightly are over for the major programs - at least the ones that are smart.

"A lot of lessons are being learned in Division I," he said.

"People are seeing in the last couple of years, really in the last three or four years, how competitive the FCS is.

"More and more, we're seeing there is talent everywhere. We see it at UMass."

Rodriguez was not the Michigan coach in 2007, when FSC power Appalachian State went into Michigan Stadium and claimed a 34-32 victory.

That game is considered one of the greatest college football upsets of all time, in no small part because Michigan was ranked No. 5 at the time.

No longer is it completely rare for a school from the FCS (known commonly as Division I-AA) to beat a so-called Division I-A team, though.

It has happened five times this season. Part of Michigan's motivation is that losing to UMass would be ruinous in the eyes of the pollsters, who ranked the Wolverines at No. 20 in this week's FBS poll.

"We're not good enough to play poorly against anybody and win," Rodriguez said.

He did not tip his hand as to how much the UMass defense can expect from quarterback Denard Robinson, who leads the nation with 227.5 rushing yards per game.

Robinson has also thrown 62 times for 430 yards. Some analysts think the Wolverines might use this game to cut back on Robinson's run attempts, allowing him a break from the physical pounding, but Rodriguez isn't saying.

"Every game is a test, mentally and physically, and Denard has passed all of them," Rodriguez said.

"But there are still things we can improve on. We expect that of Denard, too.

"It's a progression, understanding how we want to attack."

Michigan's defense will contend with a UMass ground game that relies almost equally on two tailbacks, senior John Griffin and junior Jonathan Hernandez.

Hernandez has 203 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries. Griffin has 155 yards and three TD's on 39 attempts.

"I think they do a lot of the same things. They may each have certain strengths, but it's the same offense with either player, and that's how we have to prepare," Rodriguez said. 

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