Robinson, Shaw key in quelling upset bid

By Dan Gigliotti

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

Ann Arbor, Mich. — As the Massachusetts football team focused its defensive efforts this weekend on tying up Michigan’s “Shoelace,” the Wolverines found other ways to attack.

Quarterback Denard Robinson, nicknamed for his tendency to leave his laces untied, gained 120 yards on 17 carries in Saturday’s game at Ann Arbor, Mich., including one rushing touchdown. However, his passing efficiency and maturity to defer to his tailback Michael Shaw was his biggest asset.

Morris and his staff did their best to slow down Robinson, but his presence was certainly felt as they couldn’t contain the big-play ability of the Michigan offense.

“We had certain things schemed up to try and box [Robinson] in as much as possible,” UMass coach Kevin Morris said. “We always had to be aware of where Robinson is and so we’ve got to play at both ends of it and we came up short.”

UMass (2-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) held the ball for over 37 minutes, nearly one full quarter more than Michigan (3-0). Despite the discrepancy in time of possession, the Wolverines used their time on offense efficiency, accruing 525 total yards on 56 plays (9.4 yards per play).

The Minutemen took a 17-7 lead with one minute and 17 seconds left in the first half, after a nine-play, 78-yard drive capped off with a nine yard rushing touchdown by tailback Jonathan Hernandez.

The Wolverines then went on two scoring drives before going into the locker room, for a combined six plays and 111 yards. Their ability to strike quick proved a detriment to UMass.

Long completions thrown by Robinson set up both scores. A 66-yard pass to junior wide receiver Darryl Stonum cut the deficit to three. Then, after a Minutemen fumble, a 36-yard completion to senior wide-receiver Junior Hemingway keyed Stonum’s second touchdown of the game and a go-ahead score.

UMass allowed seven plays of 20 yards or more. Robinson was involved in five, including three throws for over 40 yards. He finished 10-of-14 for 241, two touchdowns, and one interception. Yet, his performance was not as dominant on Saturday as it was during the first two weeks of the season.

“I thought he was okay, but he wasn’t as sharp as he was in the first two games,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He was pretty sharp with his eyes and his decisions. There were probably a few that he’d like to have back. Decision-wise he was okay, just his ball-handling wasn’t as sharp as it needs to be.”

Morris believes that his team did well to contain Robinson, even though he ended with the most individual yards.

“They certainly emphasized that we had started zone play and gave the ball to the back,” Morris said. “I guess the one thing we can take away is that we held Robinson to only about 350 yards, if that’s a bonus. I don’t know if it is.”

Michigan rushed for 284 yards, including 80 in the first half. The Minutemen defense allowed 15 points per game and over 76 yards rushing in their first two games. Through the first two quarters against the Wolverines, they exceeded their season averages.

Although Robinson finished with more attempts, starting tailback Michael Shaw compiled more yards rushing. Shaw ended the game with a career-high 126 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries.

“[Shaw’s] a talented guy,” Rodriguez said. “I thought he used his vision well today. He’s got good feel. He’s probably the biggest home-run hitter that we have from the tailback position.”

Shaw, a junior, is a two-year letterman with 460 yards rushing and three touchdowns in 21 career games at Michigan. His performance against UMass eclipsed his previous career high of 73 yards against Delaware on Oct. 17, 2009.

In fact, his total rushing yards on Saturday more than doubled his season total through two games of 60 yards (3.0 yards per carry).

After the game, Rodriguez suggested that Shaw’s success was due to the Minutemen defensive scheme, and Shaw agreed.

“Offensively, we gotta take what they give us,” Rodriguez said. “The first couple games, they were concentrated on plugging the wholes and giving Denard a chance to run. We didn’t run him as much, we didn’t have to.

“We had an idea that [UMass] was going to try to contain Denard, but we also thought that Notre Dame would try to contain him last week,” Shaw said.

“[Denard] told me on the sideline, mid second quarter that he was going to start giving the ball up a lot more because the reads were changing. I guess UMass got the memo and they tried to hone in on his speed and that allowed things to open up for me today,” he added.

UMass averaged over nine plays per scoring drive. Its longest drive of the day was a 15-yard, 70-play drive taking 7:31 which cut the lead to 11 with 13:47 left in the game.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Shaw ran for 50 yards on the next play to set up another Wolverine touchdown. Their drive lasted one minute, 50 seconds.

Two touchdown drives in the first half combined to take 35 seconds of clock. Michigan had six scoring drives in the gone, none of which exceeded four minutes.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected]