Michigan is certainly no stranger to FCS opponents. Appalachian State can attest to that.
The Mountaineers shocked the college football world by defeating Michigan 34-32 at the Big House in the Wolverines' season-opener in 2007.
Appalachian State's victory validated the Football Championship Subdivision as a legitimate concern for FBS opponents nationwide, regardless of rank.
Yet this time around, Michigan was ready for what the FCS had in store. After trailing 17-7 with 1:12 to play before halftime, quarterback and Heisman hopeful Denard Robinson (10-of-14, 241 yards, 2 TD; 17 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD) led No. 20 Michigan to 28 unanswered points and a 42-37 victory over No. 16 FCS Massachusetts at the Big House on Saturday afternoon.
Massachusetts (2-1), playing in front of the largest crowd in school history (110,187), moved the ball effectively on the game's first drive, going 53 yards on 11 plays and putting three points on the board courtesy of Caleb Violette's 31-yard field goal with 10:00 left in the first quarter.
On the Wolverines' (3-0) opening possesion, Robinson committed a rare mistake on his first attempt of the game, throwing an errant pass over the middle that was picked off by Kumar Davis.
It was Robinson's first interception in 72 passing attempts and Michigan's first turnover of the 2010 campaign.
However, the Minutemen couldn't do anything after the pick and punted the ball deep into Michigan territory to its own seven yard line.
Coming off his first turnover, Robinson thought he had given the Wolverines a lead after heaving a 73-yard pass to receiver Roy Roundtree (2 catches, 12 yards) for the touchdown, but two penalties on the play for Michigan resulted in a five-yard loss and six points being taken off the board.
Nevertheless, Robinson fired another deep pass, a 43-yard bomb to Kelvin Grady (2 catches, 49 yards), setting Michigan up with a first and goal from the UMass five.
Michael Shaw (12 carries, 126 yards, 3 TD) wasted no time punching the ball into the endzone, rushing for the one-yard score to give the Wolverines their first lead of the day.
Not to be outdone, quarterback Kyle Havens (22-for-29, 222 yards, 2 TD) led the Minutemen on a nine-play, 67-yard drive capped off by a Jonathan Hernandez (26 carries, 114 yards, 2 TD) 10-yard touchdown scamper, giving the Minutemen a 10-7 advantage early in the second quarter.
The Minutemen almost caught a huge break, but Michigan survived a near disaster with 8:53 left in the half. Jeremy Gallon recovered Violette's punt after it was tipped by the Wolverines and rolled towards Michigan's endzone (and past quite a few players in UMass white).
Hernandez tacked on another touchdown, his second of the game, on a nine-yard rush up the middle to give Massachusetts a 17-7 lead with 1:17 to play before halftime.
Even trailing by ten late in the half, Michigan wasn't going to roll over.
On the first play of the new drive, Robinson connected with Daryl Stonum (3 catches, 121 yards, 2 TD) on a 66-yard touchdown pass.
Then with 51 seconds left on the clock, Massachusetts fumbled the ball at the end of John Griffin's 19-yard run, and Jordan Kovacs recovered at the Michigan 47 yard line.
Michigan made UMass pay, taking the ball 55 yards in 29 seconds for the score. The touchdown came on Robinson's nine-yard pass to Stonum with 20 ticks left in the half, giving the Wolverines a 21-17 lead heading into the break.
"It's early in the ball game," said Massachusetts head coach Kevin Morris. "We played well enough early in the ball game to give us a chance."
After looking like Virginia Tech against James Madison in the first half, Michigan looked more like the team that topped Notre Dame last weekend in the second half.
Led by the ground game, the Wolverines took the ball 69 yards on six plays for the score, a 34-yard rush up the middle by Shaw to give Michigan a 28-17 lead.
Robinson tacked on another touchdown with 6:24 to play in the third, rushing eight yards for the score and a 35-17 Wolverines lead.
Havens brought Massachusetts' scoreless drought to an end with 13:54 remaining in the fourth, rushing seven yards for the touchdown to trim Michigan's lead to 35-24.
Michigan erased UMass' score on Shaw's four yard touchdown run with 12:01 left to play.
The Minutemen would score another touchdown in on a five-yard touchdown pass from Havens to
Then, things would get interesting once again.
After a blocked punt by UMass' Scott Duggan, the Minutemen took the ball 25 yards on four plays to the endzone, capped off by Havens' seven-yard TD pass to tight end
UMass attempted an onside kick, which went 10 yards but rolled out of bounds, giving Michigan the ball and a chance to run out the clock.
The Wolverines did just that, and after an wild start and a close finish, Michigan ended the hopes of a UMass miracle.
Michigan amassed 526 total yards with 241 coming through the air and 265 on the ground. As for Massachusetts, it racked up 439 total yards (222 passing, 217 rushing).
In addition, running back John Griffith rushed for 96 yards on 17 carries and receiver Anthony Nelson totaled 59 receiving yards on six catches for UMass.
Massachusetts travels to LaValle Stadium to face Stony Brook next Saturday at 6 p.m. EST in its week four match-up.