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Posted on Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

Denard Robinson's big first half carries Michigan against San Diego State, 28-7

By Kyle Meinke


Denard Robinson pulls away from the San Diego State defense on a 53-yard touchdown run in the first quarter Saturday. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Melanie Maxwell |

Updated at 6:03 p.m.

It was a tale of two halves again for the Michigan football team.

This time, it was the other way around — thanks largely to the guy who wears No. 16.

Quarterback Denard Robinson rushed for 139 first-half yards to help the Wolverines get off to a torrid start against San Diego State, then hold on to give coach Brady Hoke a 28-7 win Saturday against his former team at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan completed a sweep of its non-conference season and is 4-0 heading into its Big Ten opener next week against Minnesota (noon, BTN).

"We're going to be in there (Sunday), put this game to bed as coaches and players and get ready for Minnesota," Hoke said after the game.

First, though, his team picked up a tricky win that was teeming with subplots.

Hoke and five Michigan assistants, including offensive coordinator Al Borges, came to Ann Arbor from San Diego State in the off-season. Hoke had coached there two years before taking his dream job.

Was it difficult for that contingent to face their former players?

"Absolutely," Borges said outside the tunnel after the game. "We spent two years with those kids. They’re near and dear to our heart, you know. I’m glad this game’s over, I really am.

"I was kind of in denial until we actually had to play it."

Hoke spent some time after the game greeting his former players, whom he left via mass text message because they were on semester break when he accepted the Michigan job in January.

He declined to discuss the nature of those conversations, instead focusing on what transpired on the field.

He had to be pleased -- especially early.

Robinson scored three first-half touchdowns on runs of 1, 5 and 53 yards. That matched a career record for touchdowns in a game and helped Michigan get off to its first fast start of the season.

"That's one thing Coach was preaching on all week, and all the seniors were just like, 'Hey, we got to start taking off fast,'" a smiling Robinson said after the game. "So, Tuesday at practice, everyone came out amped and ready to go."

Robinson rushed for a 5-yard touchdown on Michigan's opening drive, the Wolverines' first first-quarter score of any kind this season. It came after the defense forced a three-and-out on San Diego State's first offensive possession.

That also was a first.

Michigan wasted little time on its second drive, with Robinson jetting to a 53-yard touchdown on what appeared to be an option play to the right. There was no question which option Robinson should take, though.

"We've been working on (that play) a lot," Robinson said. "I wanted to give the ball to Vince (Smith), but I seen the opening, so I was like, 'All right, let's go.'"

He wasn't close to being touched en route to the end zone.

Robinson added a third touchdown on a 1-yard run with 31 seconds left in the first half.

He finished with 21 rushes for a season-high 200 yards. It was his third career 200-yard rushing game.

Robinson was used out of the shotgun on more than 70 percent of Michigan's plays.

For as good as he was on the ground, though, Robinson continues to struggle in the passing game. He finished 8-of-17 passing for 93 yards and two interceptions. He remains below 50-percent accuracy on the season.

"I'm not too mad at myself because my teammates, they keep telling me I'm going to be all right, keep fighting," Robinson said. "They got my back and I know they do."

The Michigan defense also was sharp in the first half, when it limited San Diego State to 164 yards and, most importantly, zero points. The front seven was particularly impressive, forcing Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley into several hurried -- and errant -- throws.

The Aztecs (3-1) came into the matchup averaging 38 points per game, which was 26th in the country. They didn't come close to that against Michigan.

San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman rushed for 109 yards. He entered the game second in the country with 167 rushing yards per game.

Lindley, who was among the nation's top-10 passers last year, was pestered often by Michigan's defensive line, which had its best game of the year. Lindley finished 23-of-48 passing for 253 yards and one interception.

"We were getting really good pressure up the middle with Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and I think that just rattled him a bit," defensive end Craig Roh said. "He didn't perform as well as we had expected. He's a real good quarterback, but we just got pressure on him and got him rattled a bit."

Roh, who was quiet the first two games of the season, posted another good game. He had two tackles for loss, including a sack that forced a fumble.

"I subbed in for Jibreel Black, just bull-rushed and then ripped outside," Roh said. "Got the ball, and it was a good feeling. It's always a good feeling when you get a sack."

The Wolverines, outstanding on turnover margin all season, forced three. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Ryan recovered two fumbles and sophomore safety Thomas Gordon recovered a third.

But they also committed four of their own, including three in the third quarter, when Robinson had two interceptions and sophomore tailback Stephen Hopkins lost a fumble.

Sophomore place-kicker Brendan Gibbons also missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt in what proved to be a disastrous third quarter.

San Diego finally broke through with a touchdown late in the third to close within 21-7. By that time, the Michigan defense hadn't given up a score since allowing a field goal on the first play of the second quarter against Eastern Michigan.

The Aztecs then forced Michigan to punt deep in its own territory, and a nice return gave them the ball at the 50-yard line trailing 21-7 with 13 minutes left and the momentum of the game beginning to shift.

But Michigan's defense again came up big, forcing a three-and-out.

A 7-yard touchdown run by tailback Smith made it 28-7 with 6:29 remaining to all-but-seal the win for Michigan.

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



Wed, Sep 28, 2011 : 3:27 a.m.

D Rob has got to contribute can only throw a Hail Mary pass so often and that's what he throws best.


Mon, Sep 26, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

Tim Tebow had a completion percentage around 65% in his college career and had his share of sub-60% games. Some people considered him to be a pretty good player. My point? Completion percentage can be somewhat overrated in college. If the Michigan defense keeps improving, Denard might not have to bring his percentage up a whole lot for this team to keep winning. An improvement would be nice, but a good coaching staff will find ways to win with someone like Denard. They just need to keep him healthy, which might be easier said than done.


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

I love the defense shuffle. Keep the QB in complete confusion the then Hit him from all directions. Good Defense, Go Blue.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

Good win. San Diego State is a decent team, though Lindley clearly had a bad game. - Yes, echo the praises of Blake Countess. He looked terrific for a freshman. - Glad to see no three-man rushes, and some pressure without blitzing here and there. - Also glad to see a lot more press coverage. Opponents' passing games were ten yards and a cloud of dust in the first two games (EMU doesn't count, as the Eagles have no passing game). Pressure everywhere. Make them beat you. - Still not liking Denard's decision-making skills. With a 21-0 lead in the third quarter, twice he threw interceptions when throwing the ball away or checking off was better than forcing a ball. For that matter, he showed no touch on the deep ball and throws like a quarterback with a separated shoulder. - We found out last year (not that we had any reason to suspect any differently) that a quarterback zone read run doesn't work against good Big Ten defenses. And as long as Denard can't throw, defending his running is fairly easy as long as the ends contain and the linebackers maintain their gaps while rushing. But this remains a mainstay. - We have talented receivers, but they're getting no work. - To avoid another 7-5 season, we need a healthy Denard making better decision and throwing accurately. Not sure we'll get that as long as he's running 20-25 times per game.

Larry Weisenthal

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

Denard is obviously a better passer when he's threatening to run. I think that Borges and Hoke will have to decide whether it's likely that Robinson will eventually improve out of the pocket or whether to simply take the path of least resistance and let him operate out of the shotgun all of the time -- particularly considering the inability of the offensive line to open holes for the tailback, thereby negating the advantages of the pro set.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

I really admire Vincent Smith. Many people kept saying he wasn't fast enough for RR's spread team (especially after his 1st season knee injury). Now they're saying he's not big enough for the new semi-power offense. Yet, he just keeps producing. On the other hand, where was Michael Shaw today? I don't recall seeing him in the game. Was he out on injury?


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

.yeeaah..good win..Big Ten Time.. Go Blue! v


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

"We've been working on (that play) a lot," Robinson said. "I wanted to give the ball to Vince (Smith), but I seen the opening, so I was like, 'All right, let's go.'" High quality UofM education right there. At least he can run a football.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

Uh, momRN, sorry that not everyone is perfect like you. This is basically a chat forum, so I didn't know I was being graded by English Professor momRN. Are you always so quick to be judgmental of people? As an immigrant who came here as a young child, it was and always has been important to me to speak English and do it correctly, therefore I agree w/you that we should as a society aspire to communicate in the optimal way, but you seem to enjoy attacking people, what's going on w/that?


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

@Mick, because this is not how the english language is spoken. shall we all lower our standards because "that's how they talk in the area he grew up in"? He is a junior at the University of Michigan, more should be expected, not less. Though judging by your sentence structure I see why you are so quick to defend him.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

It's where he comes from momRN, that's how they talk in the area he grew up in, why do you have to insult the young man like that? If he wasn't getting his classwork done, he wouldn't be eligible, i.e. Tate Forcier.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

I don't believe I've ever seen worse passing from a college QB. It's great to see such improvement on defense, and Robinson is still an amazing runner. Without a passing game, however, the future looks dim.

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Very well said. You won't last to long with that offense. 55% passing is NOT good.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

This is when being experienced is a help... Dick Vidmer 1967, and for all the glory of the memorable pass to AC, John Wangler. Michigan did not always produce NFL quality QBs.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Well Kyle, your prediction was pretty bad my friend, you need to to have more faith in a REAL coaching staff, just as I told you before the season started when you were dismissing my prediction of a 9/10 win season. Even though we've been 4-0 for 3 years in a row, this just feels different, for example, we have given up 51 total points in 4 games this year, with 31 of those coming in one game to ND. By comparison, last year after 4 games we had given up a total of 92 points to the likes of an early season Uconn, a still developing ND, an FCS school in UMASS and that powerhouse MAC school in Bowling Green (wink, wink on the powerhouse comment). As I type this WMU is beating Illinois 13-10 late in the 2nd QT. Better tackling, better adjustments, good scheme and just a downright feeling that something good is gonna happen, this feels like U-M Football. I loved the way Blake Countess covered and tackled, he looks like a supreme player and will only get better because we have REAL coaches now! I'd like to see Denard improve more in the passing game, but I like how Borges is mixing it up and we will get better on Offense. But please sit Hopkins down, he's a fumbling machine, that ball was barely touched and he fumbled it anyway. Also, please let Wile kick FG's, please. Let him get some experience in that area so that we will be in good feet, er, good hands in that regard. Great win, great coaching, Go Blue for TiM!


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

Thanks Blu-Dogg I also forgot to mention how Hoke talks about feeling the D-Line, well it seemed like they were very felt today, I loved seeing that development.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Good post Mick..


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

Great game by the defense. Hats off to Blake Countess and Craig Roh, et al. It almost frightens me to think that we might actually be developing a good defense. I hope I don't jinx them by being too hopeful. On the other hand, our dilithium crystal QB had better start completing passes. Fortunately, his superb running has more than offset his poor passing -- so far. That won't be enough in the B1G season. And, I'll be very disappointed if Stephen Hopkins gets his hands on the ball again any time soon. Time to sit that young man down for at least a few games. GO BLUE!!!

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

This team is so weak on offense it is ridiculous. When, not if, but when #16 gets hurt this team will fall flat. They have no passing game at all. The defense is shaky at best. Come on people the last 3 years Michigan has started out undefeated to first 4 games and look what happened. If you know football this offense will not hold up against a good team and the defense will not have a chance. Still A LOT of work needs to be done!


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 5:47 a.m.

"Stop it, you embarrassing yourself." Ok, ok! Enough said! :)

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 2 a.m.

Leave to a fan of M-S-Moooooooooooooooooooooo to drop a cow pie. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

Such atrocious spelling and all he could find was Lansing spelled wrong?

Jonny Spirit

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

Yeah, it's not paying to good :)


Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

so JS, you are/were a Geography major ? East Lancing ?

Jonny Spirit

Sun, Sep 25, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

Oops Lansing not Lancing, my bad. I wish we could go back and edit posts.

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

See ya in East Lancing little sister! 4 wins in a row sounds about right :)


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:47 p.m.

you don't get it jonny.. Devin a pro set QB, not a spread QB.. this argument will be settled in E.L. and you wont be posting on afterwards..

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

Devin Gardner the fumble machine he won't see the field. I hope MI plays him, he coughs it up more the anybody. I don't think anybody can stop #16. When he is hurt and on the bench because Mich rode his back for every win, that is the only person who will stop him. Just wait, they will be talking Hiesman again and then uh oh, down goes #16, and there goes your season.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

read my post jonny.. NO EXCUSES !! nobody said anything about cupboards!! Michigan has depth on offense and Devin Gardner can and will fill in just nicely if needed. And will be on the road in E.L. does sparty have anyone that can catch # 16.. Nuff said !! I'm with Mission 2 TD's Plus..

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

Seriously, missionbrazil your gonna throw up some stats when you played EMU, WMU, an average ND team (who I know kick our butt), and San D ST. Stop it, you embarrassing yourself. These are crappy teams you have played, uhhhh MSU put up 45 on CMU today. Who cares the should put up 70. Your suppose to win these games, and your suppose to dominate the game. Michigan never dominated nothing, ND turned it over 5 times and twice in the red zone. Michigan did not win that game ND lost it for them.

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

Oh noooo, not the cupboards are bare again. Here we go again, We have no talented kids here at Michigan, we have to start all over again, we can't win with the other coaches players... Blah, blah, blah. You said it correctly, you scored 28 in the 4th qt and how many in the first 3 quarters? Your offense is weak without #16, just admit it. When he gets hurt from running the ball 80% of the game MI will struggel and fall on there face. There is NO passing game, completing only 55% is AWFUL! Oh and yes you would of blown out WMU, great win, oh and another great win against EMU, yup real juggernaut. Good ole football games there. Go on the raod and play somebody, then lets talk again. Prove yourself before you start drinking the Kool-Aid. Band wagon fan.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

If you have watched the same games I have, MI has tried to run many different offensive schemes and failed, and failed BAD. JS, I don't think you can say our O has failed bad when we have scored 34 (in 2/3 of a game), 35, 31, and 28 points. We have scored all of those points and our offense hasn't even begun to reach their potential ... which we should do about the time we play your MSU team. Prediction: UM 42 ... MSU 21


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

Jonny, your Michigan football knowledge(or lack of) is truly lacking..I wouldn't say Big Al's offense has failed bad ! They scored 28 points in the 4 th qtr vs ND. Would have blown out WMU if not shortened,as i 'm writing this WMU 20 ILL 20 in the 4th. Michigan will not win Crystal this yr and Brady & co. have NO excuses,They are trying to coach up somebody else s recruits,and make them the best players the possibly can be. I don't think Michigan is a top twenty team yet! And if you ask me Wiscky will run over the Huskers and probably everyone else... Michigan will improve more this season ,and who knows.. GO BLUE

Jonny Spirit

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

I'm not talking about my Spartans, my Spartans has done nothing this year to prove me anything. They can't even run the stupid ball, and they have 3 of the top 15 RB's in college football. This article is about Michigan, so lets talk Michigan Football. Plus, beat us or shut up. Michigan has a week passing game and an average running game. They have an outstanding QB which will get hurt when you run him 80% of the time. If you have watched the same games I have, MI has tried to run many different offensive schemes and failed, and failed BAD. Then the the head coach say, hey #16 can you run the ball all over the field and win the game for us. Michigan is an average team and will stay an average team. And oh my God please don't bring up "but we have the most wins ever" who cares, this conversation is about Mich football 2011. This state has nothing to worry about because Nebraska, and OSU will beat both of us, GUARANTEE!


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

come on jonny , why did danner run up the score on CMU,in a down yr,against his old coordinator? and I'll Take Michigan's D vs your sparties ,they are improving each week,and probably now in the top 5 in the nation in take aways.. ND put a beat down on ya last week,so you beat CMU this week and your chirping !! typical..


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

It's great to see our D improving as the season goes on. To hold SDSU to only 7 points is a great accomplishment. Nice game for Blake Countess, especially considering that they were going after him once he came into the game. Wile had a very nice game punting, with 4 punts for an average of 49 yards. We may be seeing him on FG's in future games. We need to be able to kick a 40 yard FG ... we're going to need it some day down the road. Imagine if our O puts together a complete game - passing and running. Even though DRob had another off game in the passing dept., we still scored 28 pts. and we had over 400 yards. I believe that DRob will improve in the passing game. He has a great attitude and work ethic, plus he has good coaches that will help him improve. It is taking longer than most expected, but he will come around.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

I with you Mission on D-Rob improving,I'm starting to think its mostly physiological, like when he's under center,and drops back he automatically goes into read option.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

Denard Robinson is a great running QB but has shown us that he's pretty sorry as a passing QB. I don't think his passing will ever improve at Michigan like we hoped, but obviously the running game is working out well for them and they're milking it until the wheels fall off. It makes you wonder what the next starting QB at Michigan will be like, since Devin Gardner appears to be a worse but taller Denard Robinson but supposedly is a better passer. Blake Countess is a freshman but is arguably the best CB on Michigan's roster even though he's inexperienced. He was getting a ton of hype as a recruit and it's great to see Michigan has at least one potentially capable CB unlike years past. Our defense is improving nicely so far. Even though they were San Diego State, this team came ready to play and was obviously very talented but Michigan did a great job on defense. I'm loving the way this team is being shaped with Brady Hoke and hope for a bright future!


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

Too bad you think Denard's passing will ever improve. He did quite well the first half then lost his confidence when things went south in the 3rd quarter. I think Denard will regroup and do better next week. I would bet Denard will improve. He might not be perfect, he might throw a few more picks but he WILL improve. Aside from that, I also was impressed with how Blake Countess played. The Michigan DEFENSE is back!!


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

I think Devin Gardner just needs some reps and some PT, he is 6ft5in 220lbs ,and we have yet to see his potential..


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

Good job Mr. Meinke on your prediction the other day ... you missed UM's total points by only 7. Oh but wait ... you predicted SDSU would get 38 ... you only missed it by 31. I have to give you grief for picking SDSU 38-31 over our beloved Wolverines. Go Blue !


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

That should say you predicted SDSU to win 38-35.


Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

I thought Blake Countess was solid in coverage,has some speed ,and looks like a good tackler.. G-matt has taught Craig Roh a life lesson this season,and Roh looks very good out there because of it,the 1st series SDSU had the ball Roh straight up smacked Hillman in the backfield to force a 3 and out !! Defense is improving from week to week,and starting to look like a Michigan defense!! TiM.. GO BLUE..