O-line looks to keep Denard clean
September, 17, 2012
By Chantel Jennings | ESPN.com
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThe offensive line felt it had its best game protecting Denard Robinson against UMass.Denard Robinson has been nothing short of magnificentin the past two Michigan-Notre Dame games, accounting for a mind-boggling 908 yards and eight touchdowns.
But the overlooked players in his achievements are the offensive line. When those five players work together and block well, hold those blocks just an instant longer, Robinson is electric and mesmerizing. When they don’t play well, Robinson is bottled up and often so banged up he’s headed for the sidelines.
This weekend, the linemen are hoping to give their signal-caller and their team another statement win over the Fighting Irish.
“They’re a good team and they always play well, and they played us well last year,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “I know if we play this game like we played the first three quarters last year then we’re not going to be successful.”
The Wolverines rallied from a 24-7 deficit entering the fourth quarter to win 35-31 at Michigan Stadium.
But what a difference a year has made between the teams. Michigan lost Rimington Award winner David Molk and Mark Huyge from its O-line, while Notre Dame’s front seven seems to have been elevated to the status of one of the best around.
Notre Dame’s defensive line will be the strongest Michigan has seen since the season opener against Alabama. It should give the Wolverines a good measuring stick of the progress they’ve made and work as a steppingstone to the talent they’ll see throughout the Big Ten schedule.
“To see how far we’ve come from game one to game four is exciting,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “There’s no question that it’s going to be a test. They’ve been very productive as a football team and as a defensive team. We’re going to have to block the line of scrimmage. And we need to do a great job in protection.”
The Wolverines have been strong in pass blocking this season, allowing Robinson time in the pocket so he can make his progressions. But pass blocking is where the most obvious struggles have been.
Lewan said he thought the offensive line played better against Massachusetts than it had during its first two games. And whether it was the offensive line’s chemistry or the talent gap between the teams, the O-line helped Robinson to be able to throw for 291 yards and rush for 106.
But that’s still not enough for Lewan.
“We still need to improve,” Lewan said. “I think this offensive line needed to see that we could do it, and now that we know we can do it, we need to keep doing it, even when we play against the Notre Dames and all those big teams.”
Robinson has never lost to Notre Dame. His linemen aim to ensure he can leave Ann Arbor making the same claim.