Tate Forcier plays one series; Denard Robinson leads 4 scoring drives
Tate Forcier started Saturday against Delaware State a week after he suffered a concussion against Iowa, but the true freshman lasted just one series as Michigan chose to be careful with its quarterback’s health.
“We had thought about” sitting him altogether, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “But he progressed really well during the week, practiced well Wednesday and Thursday, and he needs some reps. He’s still a freshman, so every rep that he gets is valuable, not only in games but in practice.” Rodriguez said he planned to play Forcier “a few series,” but once Michigan got up 21-0 midway through the first quarter he turned to Denard Robinson. Robinson led four scoring drives in the first half, throwing touchdowns to Kelvin Grady and Martell Webb and running for a 4-yard score. Rodriguez said he intended to get Robinson more involved in the passing game, but did not go to the air in either of Robinson’s first two series. “We wanted to get in there and run some of the passing plays and train him with his eyes and where he’s supposed to look,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know how many times he threw it. Four? We wanted more than that.” Robinson finished 3-of-4 passing for 85 yards. He’s 10-of-19 on the year with three interceptions and Saturday’s two touchdowns.
Sheridan, Cone enjoy time on field
After Forcier and Robinson took turns leading Michigan's offense to a quick lead, the Wolverines got contributions from quarterbacks further down the depth chart.
Nick Sheridan, who started four games last season but had only thrown a couple of passes this year, stepped in and completed seven of nine passes for 88 yards. And David Cone, who quarterbacks the scout team, completed all three of his passes for 54 yards.
"It was a lot of fun," Cone said, as fans chanted his name. "I've been feeling good in practice. I didn't know we were gonna get to throw that much, because we were up by a lot."
Sheridan, a Saline native, has kept competing despite Michigan's depth at quarterback. While it's unlikely Sheridan will break through as a starter in his final season and a half, Rodriguez said Sheridan has a bright future in football.
"We think an awful lot of Nick," Rodriguez said. "He's gotten better, and he's worked hard at it, but he's like a coach for us on the practice field and the game field. He sees very well, he knows our offense, and I think he's going to be a tremendous coach."
Even freshman quarterback Jack Kennedy got in at the end of the game for Michigan.
"Those guys put the time in, and it's good to see them having fun," Rodriguez said.
Graham still thinking of Big Ten title
As far as accolades go, it wasn't the best week for Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham.
He was left off the Lombardi semifinalists list, an award given to the best lineman in the country. He wasn't named to one of Phil Steele's three midseason All-Big Ten teams, which means Steele considers him at least the seventh-best defensive lineman in the conference.
Graham, though, doesn't care. With Ohio State losing Saturday, it opened up a good portion of the Big Ten.
"I'm not worried," Graham said. "As long as we win this Big Ten championship, it don't matter. That's my biggest award for anybody."
There is a list that is more important to his future, though. It's the one that begins getting compiled now and then finishes up in April - the NFL Draft list.
Against Delaware State, Graham had three tackles, two of them for sacks. And he's being touted as a potential first-round NFL pick by some analysts.
So to Graham, that's the list that matters.
"Yeah, yeah," Graham said. "That's more important. After we finish this goal, that's the goal."
Rogers moves to cornerback
Buried on the depth chart at receiver, James Rogers approached Rodriguez a few weeks ago and asked about a position change. Rodriguez finally acquiesced last week, moving Rogers to cornerback - where he began his Michigan career. With backup J.T. Floyd out with the flu, Rogers got extensive playing time at left cornerback. He finished with one tackle. “He came to me actually a week or two ago and asked and said, ‘Listen, if I can help,’” Rodriguez said. “I said, ‘Well, let’s wait,’ and then this week we thought was a good week to try him. He got a lot of reps, so we’ll see how he did.” With Boubacar Cissoko still serving an indefinite suspension for violating team rules, cornerback is one of the thinnest positions on Michigan’s young defense. Troy Woolfolk moved from safety to corner last week against Iowa, and made his second start opposite Donovan Warren on Saturday. True freshman Teric Jones also saw extensive playing time against Delaware State (1-5), but Michigan kept highly-regarded freshman J.T. Turner on the bench. Turner has not played this year, and is on track to redshirt. “We were very mindful of the guys we plan on redshirting,” Rodriguez said.
Michigan played 84 of the 115 players it dressed Saturday, and seniors Zac Baker and Ohene Opong-Owusu made their first-ever appearances. Opong-Owusu was mobbed by teammates on the sideline after making a special-teams tackle in the second half.
"He was a captain out there today and this was his game," Graham said of Opong-Owusu. "I tip my hat off for him ‘cause he was hustling every time he was in there. I know he works so hard every day and for him to go out there and get two tackles on the two plays he was out there, that was a good thing for him."
One player who didn't get in much was punter Zoltan Mesko. Michigan never punted Saturday. Mesko did hold on extra points.
A healthy day for Michigan
While Forcier played, running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor sat Saturday with injuries. Brown missed his second straight game with post-concussion symptoms, and Minor rested a nagging high ankle sprain. “Brandon, he could have went,” Rodriguez said. “But as I mentioned earlier, our hope was to be able to keep him out.” Michigan escaped Saturday’s game without any other injuries. “That’s a win,” Rodriguez said. “The second half, all the starters were off, even on special teams.”
James Briggs and Michael Rothstein contributed to this article.