Michigan quarterbacks struggle amid rainy conditions at Purdue
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Denard Robinson will start at quarterback next week for the Michigan football team against Wisconsin.
That much, Rich Rodriguez knows.
Despite alternating Robinson on a series-by-series basis with Tate Forcier throughout the second half Saturday, the Michigan football coach wanted to make it clear there’s no quarterback controversy.
As for everything else that happened to his sophomore quarterback against Purdue in a 27-16 Michigan win?
“I’m befuddled a little bit,” quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “Because he hasn’t played like that in a while, and we have to get back and find out what the hell went wrong, and get him back to where he was.”
For most of the season, Robinson could do no wrong. On Saturday, there wasn’t much he could do right.
A driving rain didn’t help him keep his grip on the football, even if he maintained it on the starting position. But it wasn’t only the weather that contributed to his four-turnover performance.
“It was a rainy game, bad game, slippery, bad reads, all that,” Robinson said.
It didn’t help that Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan applied constant pressure. The Wolverines offensive line had allowed four sacks all year. Kerrigan registered four Saturday.
Robinson lost two of his three fumbles and threw two interceptions Saturday, including one that Purdue’s Ricardo Allen returned 94 yards for a touchdown.
He finished 13-of-21 passing for 176 yards, and threw one touchdown. He rushed 22 times for 68 net yards, the second consecutive game he has been held to less than 70 rushing yards.
In the second quarter, he passed John Navarre’s school record for all-purpose yards in a single season, set in 2003, and finished the game with 3,407 on the season.
But that was hardly a consolation on a difficult afternoon. After his second interception, which led to a Purdue field goal in the third quarter, coaches started the platoon.
“At times, Denard wasn’t sharp, so it was just time to get a look at the other kid, and he did some things,” offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said. “But it never was “Well, Denard’s out.’ We just wanted to try the other one for a series, then we made the decision to go with both of them.”
Rodriguez bristled at the suggestion that Robinson had been benched.
“I think it’s a little harsh to say he was benched,” he said. “We’re just giving him a break and letting him see what’s going on in there, and putting him back in. When you bench a guy, it means you bench him and you don’t put him back in.”
Not that it was any solace for the Wolverines, but Forcier couldn’t do much better in the elements. He completed one of four passes for 17 yards, and absorbed the last of Kerrigan’s four sacks.
“It was tough,” Forcier said. “I even talked to Denard about it. There wasn’t much you can do. It was just, it’s the weather and you deal with it. We came away with the W.”
Afterward, Rodriguez quickly pointed out that Robinson would start next week. He viewed Saturday’s performance as an anomaly from a sophomore who once was a Heisman Trophy candidate.
“We’ve probably gotten spoiled because this is his first year as a starter,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so sharp, and I don’t know if it was conditions or what have you, but he wasn’t his normal self today.”
Pete Bigelow covers Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2556, via email at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.