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September 14, 2012 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-14
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Wolverines not overlooking Minutemen

Daily Sports Editor
All the games count the same
for the Michigan football team,
but it'd be hard to fault the Wol-
verines if they looked past Mas-
sachusetts, their
opponent on Sat- UMass at
urday at Michi- h
gan Stadium. Mhign
No. 17 Michi- Matchup:
gan enters UMass 0-2;
the contest as Michigan 1-1
a 45.5-point When: Satur-
favorite, the day 3:30 P.M.
largest spread in Where: Michi-
program history. gan Stadium
And for good TV/Radio:
reason, too - BTN
the Minutemen
are in their first
season of FBS competition after
making the move from Division-1
FCS play. They spent last week
getting throttled by Big Ten bot-
tom-feeder Indiana, 45-6.
As if that weren't enough rea-
son to take this Saturday's game
lightly, the Wolverines are also
well aware that a primetime
matchup with rival Notre Dame
looms just a week away.
But despite all the reasons to
overlook Massachusetts, players
and coaches alike insist that they
aren't succumbing to that tempta-
"I think we've done a nice job
of taking them one at a time," said
Michigan coach Brady Hoke. "But
at the same time, it doesn't mat-
ter who you're playing. It's really
about us and how we prepare
and how we improve and how we
practice every week.
"Every week the discussion
starts with us and what we need
to do as a football team."
Redshirt junior safety Thomas
Gordon echoed Hoke's senti-
ments when asked how the team
was making sure it focused fully
on Massachusetts, despite the
apparent lack of a challenge
that the Minutemen pose. Gor-
don pointed to Arkansas' loss to
Louisiana-Monroe last week to
emphasize how any team could
lose at any time.

turnover battle. (Michigan has
a minus-four turnover margin
through two games after finish-
ing last season at plus-seven.)
But the facet that Hoke men-
tioned that most will be watching
with a close eye is the Wolver-
ines' running game, particularly
with redshirt junior running back
Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Senior quarterback Denard
Robinson proved against Air
Force that his legs are once again
a serious threat after he struggled
in the opener against Alabama.
But Michigan's running backs
have been stymied in both games,
including Toussaint, who man-
aged just seven yards on eight
carries against the Falcons in his
first game action of the season.
The position group to watch
is the offensive line, which took
responsibility for Toussaint's
poor performance. It's still trying
to develop cohesion after losing
two starters from last season.
"There are some growing pains
that go with that," said offen-
sive coordinator Al Borges. "But
I think the more the same five
work together, the better you're
going to see them play, and they
did some really nice things in
this game to spring Denard. ...
We gave him room to run, so now
we just have to take the next step
with our tailbacks.
"(Toussaint) and everyone else,
Should the offense - particu-
larly the running game - be able
to find more consistent, sustained
success, Michigan's defense will
find itself with less pressure on
its shoulders after two subpar
efforts to open the season.
The good news for that unit
is Massachusetts won't present
nearly the challenges that Ala-
bama's uber-talented offense
and Air Force's confusing triple-
option system did.
But just like the team at large,
don't expect the Wolverine
defense to take the Minutemen
"You can't overlook any oppo-
nent," Gordon said. "We're going
into this week with that mindset."

Redshirt junior tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint hopes to return toform this weekend after a dismal running attack vs. Air Force.

Massachusetts should prove
worthy of the Wolverines' atten-
tion for a number of other reasons
as well.
For one, it boasts a familiar
face in starting running back
Mike Cox, who used the NCAA
graduate rule to transfer there
after spending the last four years
in Michigan's backfield.
(Under the rule, players are
allowed to transfer to another
school without sitting out a year
if they complete their coursework
at their initial university and pur-
sue a program at their new insti-
tution that the original school
doesn't offer.)
All week, Gordon and his

teammates expressed happiness
for Cox's opportunity and said
they would be rooting for him
every week of the season except
this week.
And anyone on Michigan's
team who'arrived before Hoke
became the head man last season
will remember the last time that
the Minutemen came to Michi-
gan Stadium in 2010. Those Rich
Rodriguez-led Wolverines won
that game, but only after over-
coming a stiff challenge from
Massachusetts - they led by just
four points at halftime and had to
hold on for a narrow 42-37 win.
"I don't think we're particu-
larly thinking about that this

week," said fifth-year senior
center Elliott Mealer. "We're,
I think, focusing on Michigan
more so. We obviously have some
corrections we need to make on
ourselves. ... (But) that is a les-
son - we know we're going to get
everybody's best shot, so I think
we're always prepared for that."
Mealer isn't wrong in saying
his team has plenty to work on.
Luckily for Michigan, this game
should provide plenty of opportu-
nity for it to do so.
Hoke identified several areas
where he's looking for improve-
ment on Saturday, among them
increasing his offense's time
of possession and winning the



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