Saturday, September 8, 2012
Denard Robinson defies the numbers
By Chantel Jennings
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The numbers didn't seem to add up on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who rushed for 218 yards and threw for 208 yards, accounted for more offense than what was in the Michigan statistics. His 426 yards of total offense was four yards more than the Wolverines' 422 yards, and while the math worked its way out because of negative yardage from the team and a poor showing from running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, it all sort of seemed to make sense.
In a strange statistical anomaly, Denard Robinson actually accounted for more total yards (426) than the entire Michigan offense (422) against Air Force.
Because people stopped using numbers to define a quarterback who believes he could beat Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash and a player who has beaten teams singled handedly, even though his arm sometimes has held him back.
But on Saturday, in a 31-25 win over Air Force, Robinson showed a more relaxed demeanor on the field as he handled the Falcons and took what they threw at him.
"I think I calmed down a little more and I just went out there and played Michigan football," Robinson said. "I feel like we still have to improve some, but we went out and played ball today."
Robinson rushed for two touchdowns and added another two in the air on a 14-of-25 passing effort. It wasn't a perfect passing game from any standpoint, but it was enough for a win. He showed some of the passing progress that offensive coordinator Al Borges had spoken about, progress that wasn't seen during the Wolverines' 41-14 loss to Alabama last weekend, when Robinson completed just 11 passes and threw two interceptions.
But not surprisingly for the player who is known as "Shoelace," it was his feet that picked up his longest plays of the game.
On his second snap of the game he gained 79 yards for Michigan's first score, giving the Wolverines a 7-0 lead. Even more impressive was his second touchdown -- a 58-yard run in the third quarter when he scampered past defenders with just one shoe.
"I see a lot of it in practice," Michigan football coach Brady Hoke said. "I don't know if you ever get used to it. But when he sticks his foot in the ground he has an ability."
It was another reminder for any team game-planning against the Wolverines of what this senior can do when given the space. When Robinson made the right reads and hit the holes well, he was a player that few could stop.
And according to him, a player no one can stop when he gets out in front.
"Not to be cocky or anything but once I get in front of everybody and I see the end zone, I don't think I'm getting caught," Robinson said.
And his feet seemed to make the Air Force defense cautious enough that it allowed him time to make plays with his arm. And he did.
His 30-yard deep pass to tight end Devin Funchess allowed the freshman to account for his first career touchdown. And his seven-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Gardner hit him perfectly in the hands as he was able to secure a score before stepping out of bounds.
"I think the misconception is that Denard can't throw the football, but he can," Gardner said. "Every quarterback makes mistakes; they throw bad passes. Even the greatest quarterbacks do. Everybody batters him about certain little passes and it's not that big of a deal. He's doing well and I feel like he's getting better every day."
No coach ever wants a player to account for 100 percent of the offense (or in Robinson's case, more than 100 percent of the offense), but Robinson has made it clear that he will do whatever it takes for the Wolverines to win.
"I just go with the flow and enjoy it," Robinson said. "If the running back is running the ball 27 times, I wouldn't mind. If I'm running the ball 27 times, I wouldn't mind. If I'm throwing the ball 27 times, it doesn't matter. Whatever it takes to win -- that's what we want to do."