Rich Rodriguez didn’t have to keep mum when asked which quarterback will start Michigan’s second game. Denard Robinson made the decision very easy.
“He’s earned the start, for sure,” the coach said Monday. “He played well Saturday and got everyone excited.”
The sophomore started Saturday’s opener against visiting Connecticut and rushed for 197 yards – the most ever by a Wolverines quarterback – and was 19 for 22 through the air for 186 yards and a touchdown to help Michigan top the Huskies 30-10. Robinson was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week Monday after his 383 total yards passed the 368 John Navarre amassed Oct. 4, 203, at Iowa.
All that after Rodriguez refused to reveal his choice of a starter until the game began. Robinson wasn’t made available after the coach’s weekly news conference, but Rodriguez said he doubts the attention is going to affect his young quarterback.
“He’s a pretty humble guy,” he said. “He’ll be able to handle all the pats on the back. I think we just want him and the rest of the team to remember we’re one bad day from everyone saying you can’t do anything right.”
Tight end Kevin Koger said Robinson’s success through the air – he was almost exclusively a running quarterback last season – made it easier for him to run later in the game. A lot of those runs ended in hard hits, but that didn’t seem to concern his coach or teammates.
“He took a lot of hits,” Koger said of Robinson. “But he’s a tough guy.”
Now that he knows who’s calling the signals, Rodriguez said he is hoping for even more from his offense as it gets ready to travel to Notre Dame.
“We can execute a lot better, especially offensively,” Rodriguez said. “We were able to move the ball and get first downs, but if we blocked better downfield we would’ve had even more big plays.”
The Wolverines gained 287 yards on the ground against Connecticut, but the absence of many long-yardage plays stuck with Rodriguez two days later. He’s hoping for better blocking from his skill players when his team heads to Notre Dame.
“We didn’t block on the second and third level as well as we’re capable of,” he said. “We can get better blocking from our running backs and receivers and even the offensive line downfield.”
As much as a third of the traveling group might be freshman or redshirt freshmen, especially in the secondary. Rodriguez said overcoming any jitters will be key as many play their first game at Notre Dame Stadium.
“We’ve got to get them to grow up in a hurry,” he said. “You really have to learn to keep your poise and have a sense of maturity. Especially on the road.”
Rodriguez said receiver Roy Roundtree (internal bruising) and safety Carvin Johnson (knee strain) are doubtful for Saturday’s trip. Safety Jared Van Slyke will miss the season with a broken collar bone.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)