- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It seems as though quarterback Denard Robinson -- a natural-born runner -- is finally hitting his stride. With Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges putting together game plans that favor Robinson more than ever, the senior quarterback seems to be more comfortable every time he steps on the field or throws the football.
In the Wolverines’ second Big Ten game -- a 45-0 win over Illinois -- the coaches approached it with a similar plan as their first outing against Purdue, and again, they got the same outcome.
Run a lot, sprinkle in some passes, finish with a win.
“I’m comfortable with it,” Robinson said of the game plan. “This is Michigan and this is how a Michigan offense plays. The running backs were running well and the offensive line they come out every day ... and they put forth the effort today. I’m happy for them because that’s where it starts at.”
And Robinson was right. Michigan’s O-line blocked well, albeit against a mediocre Illini defensive line. It was a part of the Wolverines’ game that showed it needed serious work early in the season after Michigan struggled to get much of a running game going. But against Illinois, it finally got going. The line opened up holes for the Michigan running backs, and the corps took advantage.
Senior Fitzgerald Toussaint, who Hoke said is still the No. 1 back, ended up as the third most effective running back on the day with 62 yards. Ahead of him were sophomore Thomas Rawls and redshirt freshman Justice Hayes, who ran for 90 and 66 yards, respectively.
“We feel that we are progressing week to week, which is a goal of ours,” offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said. “We never want to feel satisfied with any kind of progress we made or the position that we’re at but we can look at the mistakes we made today and continue improving.”
And Robinson was able to break through for a few of his own, which surprised no one. The senior rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
With the running game coming at the Illini from several angles, the passing game opened as well. And like the running game, the passing game came at the Illini from everywhere. Nine players in total caught passes (though only seven from Robinson).
Robinson was 7-for-11 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the second game in a row that Robinson didn’t turn the ball over, and his decision-making continued to improve. On long runs he avoided absorbing big hits by getting out of bounds and few of his passes left fans covering their eyes.
Hoke said that he feels as though the offense’s ability to be more complete, as a result of Robinson being more complete, stems from both Robinson’s maturity and his growing comfort with the Wolverines’ game plans.
“I think he obviously reassessed after Notre Dame a little bit. I think we all did, [with] where we were,” Hoke said. “And then I think some game plan-wise. We were bound and determined that we were going to run the football and the passing game, the play-action part of it, the part of the passing part of our offense that he felt more comfortable with.”
And with that added comfort level, Robinson did what he does best -- just enjoy playing the game, and it was why the Wolverines were able to be so effective against the Illini.
“I just go with whatever we get,” Robinson said. “I just go out there and play football, whatever I see, I just play with it.”