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September 12, 2012Growing up in Northville, Mich., before moving to Knoxville, Tenn., Massachusetts redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn knows Michigan well, and is excited preparing this week for a game in The Big House.
Senior linebacker Perry McIntyre, meanwhile, has been to Ann Arbor before, with the 2010 contingent, and promises the Minutemen will not be intimidated.
"When you have that experience, you're not star struck," said McIntyre, who leads UMass with 21 stops this year. "I remember competing with that team when we were I-AA, and really having a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and if we can take care of our business again this week, we should be right there again, competitive right up until the clock hits zero."
The Minutemen surely did put a scare into the Wolverines, holding a 17-7 lead late into the second quarter while clawing back to 42-37 with just 2:05 left in the game. UMass tried an onside kick but the ball sailed out of bounds and Michigan ran out the clock.
"We showed them that day that I-AA or I-A, we weren't going to back down, and we won't back down this week either even if we haven't started the way we've wanted to," McIntyre said.
They certainly haven't. The Minutemen have been outscored 82-6, outrushed 480-81 and outgained 968-323 by Connecticut and Indiana, not exactly two banner BCS Conference teams. A year ago, UConn and IU were a combined 6-18.
Still, Massachusetts' slow start is not deterring its players this week.
"I have never set foot on a field in my career thinking we weren't going to win this game," said Wegzyn. "That won't be any different this week against Michigan.
"Obviously, that's a great program, and their favored over us for a reason, but if we do the things we need to do offensively and defensively and on special teams, and play our best game of the year, every guy in this locker room and our coaches believe we can compete."
Without giving away his team's game plan, the 6-5, 220-pound Wegyzn noted the Minutemen are well aware U-M's defense struggled a week ago defending runs outside the tackle box and while Massachusetts does not run a triple-option, its spread/read-option does present a few opportunities to get to the edge.
"You're going to watch film and pay attention to a team's weaknesses and see if you can exploit them too," said Wegzyn. "But we're a different offense than Air Force, a different offense than Alabama, and what worked for them might not work for us. We have to play our game, rely on our strengths and attack our opponents the way we're capable of."
Offensively, Massachusetts could have some success, but their greater concern is defensively and slowing Denard Robinson after Indiana's Tre Roberson rushed for 114 yards and two scores before suffering a broken leg early in the second quarter.
"We know Denard is a great athlete, and we just have to make sure we're clear what each player's responsibility is because everyone will have a job to do to keep him in check," McIntyre said.
A tall task indeed, but the Minutemen are not giving up the idea they can compete this week or for the rest of the year as they make the transition to a FBS program.
"We know we can play better than we have, and we're excited for the rest of the season, but our focus is on one game at a time, and that's Michigan," McIntyre said. "We're trying to get our first win."