UMass falls hard to Denard Robinson, No. 17 Michigan

By Stephen Hewitt

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Massachusetts football team scored its first defensive touchdown as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision and even more than doubled the most points it scored in a game this season.

Maria Uminski/Collegian

And it still didn’t even come close to beating Michigan.

Behind an explosive offensive attack led by quarterback Denard Robinson, the 17th-ranked Wolverines (2-1) scored nine touchdowns en route to a 63-13 victory on Saturday afternoon in front of 110,708 fans at Michigan Stadium, which was the largest crowd to ever watch a UMass football game.

PHOTO GALLERY: UMass football takes on Michigan at The Big House

“It was a sloppy day today for us in a lot of areas,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “Offense, defense, special teams, everybody was complicit in today’s defeat. We have a long way to go as a football team.”

One week after Indiana gained over 600 yards of total offense against the Minutemen’s defense, Michigan put up similar numbers on Saturday.

Robinson played as good as advertised, as he assaulted the UMass defense. He accounted for 397 yards – 291 passing, 106 rushing – of the Wolverines’ 585 total yards, including three passing touchdowns and one rushing score despite being pulled late in the third quarter.

“How do you get ready for him? You can’t,” Molnar said. “You just have to be able to be athletic enough, be disciplined enough to try to make the plays when he comes to you. And when he got space, man, it’s impossible to tackle him. Our guys just weren’t capable and up to that task today.”

From the beginning, it was ugly for UMass (0-3). Brendon Levengood booted the opening kickoff out-of-bounds, and then Robinson and company proceeded to march down the field with ease, putting together a five-play, 65-yard drive capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess.

The theme recurred throughout a long afternoon for the Minutemen. Robinson directed a Wolverine offense, which got touchdowns by eight different players, that put up 63 points, the most given up by a UMass team since Boston University scored 66 in a game in 1957. By halftime, Michigan led 42-13, and the rout was on.

“Just about anything that could go wrong did go wrong, at least the way I viewed it,” Molnar said.

There wasn’t much that went right for UMass on Saturday, but it can hang its hat on having a few developments on all sides of the ball.

Running back Michael Cox, who graduated from Michigan last year and transferred to UMass this year with an extra year of eligibility, put forth his best game so far in a Minuteman uniform.

Playing in the stadium that he spent the better part of his last four seasons in, Cox entered The Big House on the visiting side for the first time, an experience he described as “weird.” Still, the veteran back finished with 18 carries for 76 yards, numbers that could have been greater if the Minutemen weren’t forced to pass so often, Molnar said.

“He was on track to have a good day,” Molnar said. “He made a couple of bad decisions and gave up some ground, which was very atypical of him. He’s still, in some ways, even though he’s been around a long time, he’s still in some ways a young player. He doesn’t have a lot of carries under his belt.”

Cox’s longest run of the day, a 14-yard run burst, was part of UMass’ best drive of the day, a 13-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a Levengood field goal for the Minutemen’s first points of the game to make the score 14-3 early in the second quarter.

UMass quarterback Mike Wegzyn felt that the offense made another step forward on Saturday, even though it failed to convert a touchdown on the afternoon.

“I think each game, we’ve made pretty substantial steps moving forward,” said Wegzyn, who finished 14-for-29 with 141 yards. “Even though the score didn’t reflect it today, and obviously we lost by a lot, as an offense I think we took another step forward. It might not be as big of a step as I wanted to see, but I think we’re making progress offensively.”

The Wolverines responded quickly to the field goal in two plays. Robinson connected with Drew Dileo for a 66-yard pass play, which set up a Vincent Smith 5-yard touchdown run to give Michigan a 21-3 lead.

After the Minutemen went three-and-out on their next possession, the Wolverines took control ready to open the floodgates even more. That was put on hold, however, as UMass safety Christian Birt jumped a route and picked off Robinson for a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown to bring UMass back, 21-10.

From there, however, Michigan didn’t hold back. The Wolverines proceeded to score touchdowns on three consecutive drives to go up 42-13 at halftime, and then continued the trend in the second half with back-to-back touchdown drives.

Levengood, in his return as the starting kicker, had two field goals, and barely missed a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.

UMass will now move on from its difficult start to the season in which they faced three consecutive BCS schools as it heads to Miami (Ohio) next weekend to open up its Mid-American Conference schedule.

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.