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Posted on Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

After slow start, Denard Robinson leads Michigan football team to 31-3 win over Eastern Michigan

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson pauses after scoring on an 11-yard run in the second quarter.

Melanie Maxwell |

Updated 5:42 p.m.

Denard Robinson is concerned about his team's slow starts. He's just not sure what's causing them.

The junior quarterback rushed 26 times for 198 yards and one touchdown, and reserve tailback Vincent Smith had nine carries for 118 yards to lead the Michigan football team to a 31-3 win Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

But for the third consecutive game, Michigan (3-0) was held scoreless in the first quarter and outplayed for the game's first 20 minutes. It trailed Eastern Michigan 3-0 until midway through the second quarter.

"We wanted to come out fast, and that's what we've been focusing on," Robinson said after the game. "There's no reason (for the slow start). There's no reason for it."

With Robinson sputtering -- he missed on his first five passes -- Michigan went three-and-out on two of its first three drives. Eastern Michigan (2-1) held a first-quarter edge in total yards (140-32), first downs (7-2), did not allow a completion and controlled the ball for 10 minutes, 35 seconds.

"We might be thinking a little too much out there," junior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "I think we did a good job of making some adjustments to some of the funky things they were throwing at us."

Those funky things included trick plays such as a flea-flicker scramble by Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett and a double-pass for the end zone, as well as various irregular formations.

The Wolverines adjusted, though, and eventually got in gear.

"The coaches did a good job," Kovacs said. "They gave us some funky formations, they kind of came out and threw the kitchen sink at us in the first half — some formations we had never seen.

"We stayed calm and knew eventually they would have to play some football. We just relaxed and we were ready for them."

Michigan was within 3-0 of Eastern Michigan because of three big plays by its safeties in the game's first 17 minutes.

Sophomore Thomas Gordon recovered a fumble on EMU's opening drive, Kovacs had a tackle on an EMU fourth-and-goal from the 1 and Gordon made a spectacular one-handed, over-the-shoulder interception.

Gordon, who also had six tackles, had his best game at Michigan.

"Kenny Demens made a big play to force the fumble, and I was just fortunate enough to be in the right position to pick it up," he said. "On the interception, they gave us a funky formation. Their backup quarterback was in the backfield, and we keyed that, so we knew some trickery was up.

"The guy released, and I just ran with him and made a good play."

Eastern Michigan got only one more first down in the first half after Gordon's pick.

Meantime, Robinson went to work with his legs, even with his arm abandoning him. He had 52-yard burst from inside his own 5 to get Michigan moving in the second, then found Kevin Koger for his two completions — the second of which was a 9-yard touchdown that gave Michigan its first lead, 7-3 with 9:28 left in the second.

"We came out a little flat, but obviously that 97-yard yard drive picked up some momentum and we kept it going the whole game," Robinson said.

The junior added an 11-yard touchdown run 6 minutes later to give Michigan a 14-3 lead heading into halftime. He finished with 14 rushes for 131 yards and one touchdown in the first half.

Michigan asserted itself in the second half, going on three consecutive long scoring drives to put the game out of reach.

"The offensive staff came in at halftime and said, 'This is what we like and this is how we oughta light it formationally, this is how we probably need to tweak the blocking of it'" Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

"Both units — offensively and defensively and their respective coaches — do a tremendous job of gathering information during possessions in the first half and then coming in there as a group in each other's room and taking some things out, putting some things in, making adjustments, and then relaying it and teaching it to the kids so they understand it."

One adjustment was targeting Smith more in the running game. The junior picked up 80 of his 118 yards in the second half, becoming the first tailback to break 100 since senior Michael Shaw had 126 against UMass last year.

"(Smith) ran the ball pretty well today," Hoke said. "Until you analyze it, look at it and really evaluate it, i would hate to say that" he could become the team's starting tailback.

Starter Fitz Toussaint had 11 carries or 46 yards and one touchdown after missing last week with an injured shoulder.

The Wolverines began the half with a 13-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that was punctuated by another Robinson touchdown run, this one a 1-yarder. It gave the Wolverines a 21-3 lead.

Their next drive went 11 plays and 75 yards, featured more nifty running by Robinson and ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Drew Dileo that made it 28-3.

"It's a read, basically, and I just read it out," Robinson said. "He came open and I gave it to him."

Michigan capped its scoring with a 21-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons. After the Wolverines finished last in the country last year (4-of-14), they are 1-for-1 this season.

The crowd gave Gibbons a loud cheer for his make.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 4:51 a.m.

I was hoping to see Devin Gardner get 2-3 series in the 4th quarter today... Denard is amazing, but I also remember the buzz from around 13-14 months ago about Gardner possibly being the starter last year. All told, it would just be nice to know we've got a very capable backup with some good game experience.


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

I've linked to two articles from around 13 months ago that would seem to hint that Gardner could've been the starter. I think we remember the same thing, and it only seems like buzz to one of us. Michigan football articles that come out right before the season always get me buzzing, at least. I think you're right, though, about it being more of a creation of the fans who remembered the ways Robinson and Forcier both struggled the year before. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a>


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

There was no buzz about Devin possibly being the starter last year. And if there was, it was manufactured from nothingness by people who didn't expect Denard to come out crushing people like he did.


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

running Denard 26 times against Eastern Mich (no offense, my daughter just graduated from there) to be able to put the game away is not a good sign. If there was ever a game to line up and play pro style for the whole game, this was it. We've seen this the last few years, come Big Ten time, he will get pounded again. Why not put in Devin Gardner for a series if your just going to call QB runs? Why get Denard beat up? Only game 3 of what is hoped to be a long run for this staff so not jumping off but disappointed they aren't working on what they promised and what we hoped for, but still confident in them. Stadium was dead today, not much excitement at all.


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

I said this last week so please bear with me as I repeat myself. If Vincent Smith isn't in the backfield, it is a crying shame. I was not too impressed today? We know Denard Robinson can run on a team liek this but we need other guys to step up. The kicking game is still not that good. The lines really did not show much (it was Eastern after all) Yes, a win, but I had hoped for more early energy, and a better showing of a balanced offensive attack. I am really gad they won but I still see concerns. Hope I am wrong but I worry about the big 10 schedule and in particular MSU early in the conference schedule. Yeah, I know they got handled by ND today but we will need both lines to really show some improvement to beat them. Go Blue


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

The article reads &quot;After a slow start, Denard Robinson leads Michigan football team to a 31-3 win over Eastern Michigan&quot;; so why do some peaople comment about commercial no-fly zones or criticize Denard praying in the end zone? How about staying on subject? Let's enjoy some great defensive adjustments to stop a very good running team. Let's talk about how well Jeremy Gallon, #10, played great as both a reciever (second game in a row) and his near touchdown run back on a kick off return (holding in the backfield on Michigan screwed that up). How about Craig Roh getting 5 tackles. How about Vincent Smith and Fitz Toussaint having solid gains as tailbacks. Denard still ended up with making the some big plays with his feet, maybe we should all pray in the end zone that we have a very special young man playing for the Maize and Blue. I was at the game and came away feeling a little better than befoer it started. I would give the Defense a B+ and Offense a C+. GO BLUE!!!


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

Those grades are about right. Defense played pretty well after the first quarter and the offense was just okay, imo.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

Vincent Smith great, but we sure looked jittery in the first half. Denard looked like he lacked confidence in his decision making, but is just too good an athlete to let Eastern beat him.


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 6:21 a.m.

Vince Smith has been a shifty RB stud since his TD in the ND game. I think Smith should be given more chances at RB especially on the shotgun spread look.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

Why would you select a photo of Robinson praying in the end zone? We have far too much public praying by athletes and performers.


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 6:19 a.m.

Guys, Read the plane comment above, 9-11 was because of people worshipping a higher power and they did it in public places like New York City. That is the reason why religion should not be part of any public activity. It might inspire and provoke those kinds of activities. lol


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

So what? Why is it not ok for people to express themselves if they believe in a higher power. Sounds like you are prejudice against Black Christians.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

I applaud DRob for standing up for what he believes and for praying and giving thanks. He knows where his talent came from and he is not afraid to acknowledge that.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

Or, if you're going to select that photo of Robinson praying ... call it that. Not &quot;pausing.&quot; For what it's worth ... I think Robinson's practice of giving thanks after each TD an endearing quality in him. It's part and parcel to his general humility.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

i saw that too, kinda strange to say the least.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

I thought the stadium was a commercial no-fly zone on football Saturdays. Any explanation for the low-flying commercial airliner that flew directly over the stadium during the 2nd half?


Sun, Sep 18, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

for what it's worth the detnews M football site has a 'kind of' explanation. but you're right about the concern. in section 19 we had an excellent view of the jet's underbelly.


Sat, Sep 17, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

A little bit scary actually. Sitting in the south end zone, we watched it bank sharply north of Ann Arbor and head straight for the stadium. Flew low directly over the stadium.