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ANN ARBOR — For the first time this year, Denard Robinson didn't need to dominate the ball for Michigan to win.
That's because, according to Robinson, Massachusetts was the first team this year that dictated a game plan calling for several Wolverines to get involved. Concerned with Robinson getting loose on the outside, the Minutemen left some space open inside, setting the tone for a career day for running back Michael Shaw in UM's 42-37 win.
“We were just waiting for the running backs to have a chance to do that,” Robinson said.
UM's opponents the past two weeks, Connecticut and Notre Dame, zeroed in on Shaw and fellow back Vincent Smith, which made life easier for Robinson as he rolled up 455 rushing yards in the wins.
“I guess UMass got that memo,” said Shaw, who set career highs in yards with 126 and touchdowns with three, on 12 carries. “They tried to hone in on his speed and that opened up more things for me today.”
Robinson, unlike the past two Saturdays, was not superhuman but he still managed to rush for 104 yards —with a long of 20 — and a touchdown on 17 carries, while competing 10 of 14 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His first interception of the season came on his first pass of the day when he underthrew Roy Roundtree on a post route.
Entering the game Shaw had produced just 60 yards on 20 carries, but he was able to get things going in the second half when he ripped off a run of 34 yards for a touchdown and a 50-yarder to open a drive that he'd ultimately finish with a three-yard score.
“He's probably the biggest home run hitter we have at the tailback position,” Rodriguez said.
Smith was less impressive, recording 42 yards on 11 carries.
KICKING AND SCREAMING: Rodriguez was none too pleased with UM's special teams, calling their performance “awful” and with good reason. A blocked punt by UMass led to a touchdown, the Wolverines' backup plan at place kicker didn't have great results, kickoffs were short, and punt returner Jeremy Gallon muffed a return that had the Wolverines not recovered would have given UMass possession at UM's 16.
Brendan Gibbons, 1 for 4 on field goals this year, was replaced by Seth Broekhuizen to start the game, and Broekhuizen responded by missing a 38-yard field goal. Gibbons also lost his kickoff duties to Broekhuizen to begin the second half.
“I thought Seth kicked better,” Rodriguez said. “He got it down to the five [yard line] a couple of times with better hang time. Brendan hadn't been kicking well off the tee.”
THE OPPONENT: UMass totaled 439 yards of offense and registered 26 first downs.The Minutemen had several strong performances with quarterback Kyle Havens completing 22 of 29 passes for 222 yards and two scores, Julian Talley catching seven passes for 91 yards, and Jonathan Hernandez rushing 26 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns.