BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 18, 2010
The unthinkable was about to happen.
The Michigan football team stood 73 seconds away from heading into halftime down by double digits. Massachusetts running back Jonathan Hernandez had just pranced into the endzone to put the Minutemen up 17-7, and an Appalachian State-level upset was clearly brewing in Michigan Stadium.
No better time to turn to blind faith.
Or, as sophomore quarterback sensation Denard Robinson and junior wide receiver Darryl Stonum would say, trust and timing.
With 1:17 left in the second quarter, Robinson threw a screen pass to Stonum, who simply out-weaved and outran the Massachusetts defense for a 66-yard touchdown. The play was followed up by a Michigan fumble recovery, and eventually a nine-yard touchdown pass to Stonum.
The Wolverines had a lead at halftime, and they would manage to hold on for a 42-37 victory.
Ship righted — starting with the one big play.
“I know where (Robinson) is going to be; he knows where to throw it,” Stonum said. “I can’t really see him — our line is so tall, he’s not the tallest guy on the field. I know where the ball is going to squirt out, and he knows where I’m going to be. That’s all trust and timing.”
Stonum’s play, Michigan’s recovered fumble and Stonum’s subsequent touchdown gave the Wolverines momentum heading into the second half. Michigan received the ball first to start the half, and opened with two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives.
The first ended with running back Michael Shaw’s longest career touchdown run, a 34-yarder up the middle. The second finished with Robinson’s own eight-yard dash into the endzone. By the middle of the third quarter, all facets of the offense were finally clicking.
“They created a couple of problems for us on the first few drives,” senior offensive lineman Steve Schilling said. “We just had to get the motor going — took a little while to start up.”
But Michigan’s sloppy play in the fourth quarter — from missed tackles to a seemingly flustered special teams unit — allowed the Minutemen to claw their way back into the game. Massachusetts torched the Wolverines for three touchdowns in the fourth. Michigan’s 35-17 lead at the beginning of the quarter melted into a 42-37 edge with just over two minutes remaining.
Massachusetts’s onside kick went out of bounds at the 2:05 mark, giving Michigan the ball, and it was all but over then. Robinson and the rest of the offense remained poised and got the first down they needed to run out the clock.
After the game, the Wolverines’ mood was rather subdued. Schilling said the win was more of a relief than anything, and that he felt lucky to leave the stadium with a victory. Redshirt freshman tackle Taylor Lewan called it a “bittersweet feeling.”
“You can’t be upset with a win, but you can be upset with the way you played, and we did not play well,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said in the post-game press conference.
Robinson’s final statistics were impressive (though not quite on par with his record-breaking performances from the past two weeks): 10-of-14 for 241 yards and two touchdowns in the air, 17 carries for 104 yards and one rushing touchdown.
“I guess you could say the one thing to take away was we held Robinson to only about 350 yards — if that’s a bonus,” Massachusetts coach Kevin Morris said.
If Morris wanted to hit a more positive note, he'd point out that his offense exposed quite a few holes in the Michigan defense throughout the game. Massachusetts quarterback Kyle Havens picked apart the Wolverine secondary at will, going 22-of-29 for 222 yards with two touchdowns.
Members of Michigan’s defense were adamant after the game that they would learn from their mistakes and improve by next weekend’s matchup.
“Bowling Green — they’re not going to see this team next week,” redshirt freshman safety Thomas Gordan said.
Added sophomore linebacker Craig Roh: “The thing with this defense is we’re just going to come back here and fight even harder. We’re going to prepare even harder. The concentration and drive of this defense will not let this happen again.”