Massachusetts-Michigan Preview

BY foxsports • September 14, 2010

A mobile quarterback is a staple of Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, but the coach has spent his first three seasons at Michigan looking for the right fit under center.

The search appears to be over.

Denard Robinson has been college football's breakout star through two games, and the nation's leader in total offense will look to keep the 20th-ranked Wolverines rolling Saturday when they host FCS opponent Massachusetts.

Rodriguez tutored future NFL quarterback Shaun King as Tulane's offensive coordinator from 1997-98 and duel threat Woody Dantzler while guiding Clemson's offense before taking over at West Virginia in 2001.

Pat White became the leading rusher among quarterbacks in FBS history under Rodriguez with the Mountaineers, and the coach seems to have found another speedy star after two rough years in Ann Arbor.

Robinson piled up a school-record 383 yards in a 30-10 win over Connecticut on Sept. 4, then shattered that mark last Saturday in South Bend. He threw for 244 yards and ran for 258, including a two-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left that lifted the Wolverines (2-0) to a 28-24 victory.

"Our offense came together,'' Robinson said. "The offensive line blocked, the receivers catching, everything was clicking. ... I'm a team player and I don't look at stats.''

Heisman Trophy voters certainly are. Robinson's 87-yard TD run in the second quarter was the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history, and the sophomore became the NCAA's first quarterback since White in 2006 to run and pass for more than 200 yards in a game.

Robinson's 885 yards through two weeks are more than White, King or Dantzler ever compiled in consecutive games. He has more yards than 87 of 120 FBS teams and is the nation's leading rusher at any position.

"When I was getting recruited, a lot of teams told me I could be a receiver or a cornerback,'' Robinson said. "This was one of the few schools that told me, 'You will be a quarterback.'''

Florida coach Urban Meyer - who recruited the Florida native but wouldn't promise he'd play him under center - called Robinson "the best player in the country right now" during his weekly news conference.

Robinson may have to maintain his level of production if Michigan's defense doesn't improve. Notre Dame finished with 535 yards - 381 through the air - and the Wolverines took a hit to their linebacking corps. Backup Mike Jones broke his leg and is likely done for the season, while fellow reserve Brandon Herron could sit Saturday with an ankle injury.

"(Our defense) can play better - we missed a lot more tackles," Rodriguez said. "Some of it was their players, some of it was their technique. We've got a lot to clean up."

Michigan would also like to find a tailback that can provide a running threat similar to that of its quarterback. The Wolverines' tailback tandem of Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw has combined for 128 yards.

Rodriguez, however, isn't concerned.

"We got 500 yards rushing and if it came from one guy, I'm OK with that," he said.

UMass (2-0) began the season unranked in the FCS poll but has risen to 16th after a pair of impressive wins. The Minutemen stunned No. 4 William & Mary 27-23 in their opener, then cruised past Holy Cross 31-7 last Saturday behind 293 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Kyle Havens.

That same day, fellow Colonial Athletic Association member James Madison shocked No. 13 Virginia Tech. The Wolverines, of course, certainly know what a solid FCS opponent can do after falling to Appalachian State in their 2007 opener - the Mountaineers' first game after beating UMass for the 2006 national championship.

"They're well aware of the opportunity," Minutemen coach Kevin Morris said of the program's first meeting with Michigan. "We can't be too impressed by who Michigan is or the venue and the 110,000 people dancing around. We just have to play our football games."

UMass is 0-4 against Top 25 opponents.

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