ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had a lot of spectacular performances last season, flourishing in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense.
Nothing topped what he did against Notre Dame.
Robinson had a school-record 502 yards – 258 rushing, 244 passing – scored the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left and did that only after an 87-yard scoring run, the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
“It was crazy,” he said earlier this week. “I enjoyed the whole thing.”
The Fighting Irish certainly didn’t. They couldn’t stop Robinson on the ground or through the air and they’re itching for another shot at him Saturday night in Michigan Stadium.
“We’re excited to get another crack at him,” safety Harrison Smith said. “Going against him again is kind of a test for us.”
The Wolverines, though, aren’t asking Robinson to do it all quite like he did under Rodriguez.
New coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges say they want Robinson to simply run the team’s pro-style offense with poise, settling for small gains at times and letting teammates make more plays.
“I think he sees that he doesn’t have to be everything,” Hoke said Wednesday. “That’s an important part because there’s a composure and poise you want to play with where you don’t force things either from running it or throwing it. He’ll make enough things happen during the course of a game that just happen because of that skill set.”
Robinson ran the ball eight times for 46 yards – making him the team’s third-leading rusher – in the season-opening, weather-shortened win over Western Michigan and was 9 of 13 for 98 yards through the air.
“He didn’t create the big plays he used to, but the tailbacks did,” Borges said. “So as long as somebody does, we’ll be fine.”
Robinson insisted he enjoyed seeing Fitzgerald Toussaint run for 80 yards and two TDs on 11 carries and Michael Shaw burst through a hole for a 44-yard gain on one of his four carries against the Broncos.
The humble QB doesn’t seem to mind that he’s probably not going to put up the numbers he did last season.
He had 1,702 yards rushing, an NCAA record for a quarterback, and threw for 2,570 yards, becoming the first player to run and throw for 1,500 yards. He finished sixth in voting for the Heisman Trophy and was named Big Ten MVP and offensive player of the year.
Robinson may not be the type of quarterback the Wolverines will recruit for the future, but Hoke is not going to waste his talent. Robinson ran a sweep out of a shotgun formation on his first play last week and wasn’t used much under center during the first possession.
“We were trying to get Denard comfortable,” Hoke said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Tom Brady or Denard Robinson, you want guys to be comfortable because that position is so important to your football team.”
Slowly, Robinson is getting more comfortable being the face and voice of college football’s all-time winningest program.
“I think I’ve grown,” he said. “I’ve matured a little more. I’m better at talking to the media. At first I wasn’t used to it. Now, I’m loosening up. I’ve got to be the guy that speaks for the University of Michigan football team and accept it.”
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