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Posted on Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan's Denard Robinson seeking rematch with Ohio State, but as a different quarterback

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson rushed for 105 yards and was 8-for-18 passing for 87 yards against Ohio State last season.

File photo

Denard Robinson says he's watched the Michigan-Ohio State game for years.

Not long enough, however, to have seen the Michigan football team win it. Ever.

The junior quarterback, who was a seventh-grader at Deerfield Beach Middle School the last time the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, does remember walking off the field last year after falling 37-7 in Columbus.

"Everybody hates that taste in their mouth," Robinson said this week. "We still got that taste in our mouth. We want to change that."

He'll have his chance this weekend when the 17th-ranked Wolverines (9-2, 5-2) host Ohio State at noon Saturday on ABC. Only, he'll do it as a different quarterback than he was the last time he faced the Buckeyes.

Robinson has switched from the spread-option offense of Rich Rodriguez to the "spread-West Coast" hybrid of offensive coordinator Al Borges. Now, he's continuing to evolve as he gets a handle on the nuances of the new scheme.

The most recent development, oddly enough, has been the scramble.

One of the uncertainties coming out of camp was whether Robinson, a gifted runner, would be too impatient to work through progressions in the new passing game. The opposite, however, has been true.

Robinson has been reticent to scramble for much of the year, forgoing the run when even traditional pocket quarterbacks would take off and instead forcing balls into coverage.


Denard Robinson on Ohio State: "It's time for us to make something happen."

File photo

Borges said he thinks Robinson, like some other quarterbacks he's had, was trying too hard to prove himself as a passer. But, as Robinson has become more comfortable this year, he's finding a better balance between passing and running.

"We talked about it before," Borges said. "I said, ‘You have to use your skills more. You have great skills. Let’s make these guys pay for some of this stuff.'"

Robinson said he heard the same thing from his father, who called him a couple of weeks ago to tell him to just relax and play his game. Which, of course, includes running.

"He was just like, 'If nothing's there, then just make a play. Make a play. You got the ability to do it, so just do it," Robinson said.

Make a play, Robinson did, last week against Nebraska.

He was 11-of-18 passing for two touchdowns and one pick in the win against the Cornhuskers, and he rushed 23 times for 83 yards and another two scores. Good numbers, but not great — at least by Robinson's standards.

But it was his ability to take what Nebraska gave him that made him so dangerous. And, when nothing was there in the passing game, he didn't force anything.

Robinson scrambled at least five times, each for positive yardage, including a 16-yard gain that set up a field goal in the first quarter and a 9-yarder that set up his first touchdown run in the second quarter.

"He took (the criticism) to heart," Borges said. "In this game, we were a little more quarterback-is-going-to-be-the-check-down oriented. And we’re like that anyway.”

Those decisions also helped him hang onto the football, which had become an issue the previous three weeks. His only turnover was a pick on which a defensive lineman tipped the ball to himself. Borges called it a "fluke" play.

Borges knows Robinson has not been perfect this season — he specified his quarterback's 14 picks as a primary concern — but has been pleased with his overall growth.

Ohio State, though, thinks it has a counter-punch to Robinson's running in freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier, a speedster who could track down Robinson.

"You know, he's got the ability to get to (Robinson)," Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "He's got the ability to make a play in space against him, which some players don't.

"And if you know Denard's going to run, you feel like he's got a chance to at least get in his face and slow him down."

Robinson has struggled against Ohio State. He has never run or thrown for a touchdown against the Buckeyes and is 10-for-22 passing for 90 yards in two games against them. He's rushed for 136 yards on 28 carries.

Perhaps the biggest thing that slowed down Robinson in last year's Ohio State game was his health. He missed almost a half due to a hand injury.

This year, he's healthy and ready to try to end the Wolverines' longest-ever losing streak to their bitter rival at seven games.

Robinson said he is "starving" for a win in The Game — so much so, he's begun celebrating scores by motioning with his hands in front of his face as though he were eating.

"This program's been starving for a while," Robinson said. "It's time for us to make something happen.

"We've been starving. It's time for us to eat."

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


1st Down

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 9:34 a.m.

Beat Ohio 1st Down '011

Theo's Brother

Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Go BLUE! Great coaching this year. Theo, already done! What time is the King coming over???


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Come on Al. I wonder where Denard got the idea that he needed to be a passer and not a runner. There were no comments about Denard getting the idea that he needed to "prove himself" as a passer during those weeks he had cement feet. The play calling changes (more read option, no two quarterback sets) and suddenly Denard realizes he can run. Great game calling last week by Al. Show he isn't bound by foolish consistency in clinging to the impossible. He should take some responsibility for the games Denard was trying to be Tom Brady. Go Blue. Go Hoke, Mattison and coach Borges. Best trio of coaches in America.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

I'm torn between two thoughts on the mid-season Denard vs. the Denard we saw against Illinois and Nebraska. (1) As you say, Borges tried to go one direction ... saw it didn't work ... then changed course. If so, then as you say, good for Borges -- shows he "isn't bound by foolish consistency in clinging to the impossible" (great turn of a phrase, by the way). We should take delight in Borges' flexibility. (2) Denard got too wrapped up in the nuance of this new scheme. He was hearing "be patient and see if the pass play is there" and thought that meant "don't run." Maybe he was being too patient, and now (with coaching) he's understanding that if the pass play is there, then pass; if it's not, then run. And it could be a combination of the two ... and I suspect it is.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

Drew Sharp says this morning that Big Ten can't compete on national scale. He's right (but Hoke doesn't care). Herbstreit: "If Urban Meyer's offense could be successful in the SEC, it will be like going against scout teams in the Big Ten." He's right too (and Hoke BETTER care about this). Meyer, on The King: "Arizona is getting one of the top 5 football minds in the nation." Thanksgiving wishes from the knowledgeable Michigan faithful: 1. We hire Meyer before the bucks do. 2. The new useless scoreboards are replaced soon. 3. We accept lesser bowl even if we beat bucks (a good team will smoke the pitiful offense we now run). 4. That we all resign to making informed, poignant posts in 2012. Happy Thanksgiving to you, my faithful readers. Your Leader, Theo @ Theo's brother: Mom wants that basement cleaned NOW!

Larry Weisenthal

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 9:54 a.m.

Michigan has a better offense this year than last. No question about it. Firstly, all of the offensive stats are as good or better. Even more important is that the RR offense contributed to the defense being bad (by keeping it on the field), while the Borges offense helps the defense (by keeping it off the field and rested). It's a team game. The best offenses help the defense by eating up the clock.

1st Down

Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 9:36 a.m.

Meyer is one of RRs best friends...what do you expect him to say Theo? 13-22 BCS record at Michigan would not have happened had your king truly been one of the "top 5 minds on CF" and you know it. Go root for the Desert Cats...or whatever they are called down there


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

Perhaps, Theo, you should look at Hoke's 2012 recruiting class. It's been ranked as high as #1 by some recruiting services. It's not the schemes that win games, and championships. It's talent that wins. And if you have talent and still losing it's the coaching that cancels out talent. A great example is RR's defense. Mattison took mostly the same players and have them as the 7th best defense IN THE COUNTRY against the score. That's the only defensive statistic that counts. Being a Bo disciple like me I believe as he did. IF THE OTHER TEAM CAN'T SCORE, THEY CAN'T WIN. I don't care if you're playing Minnesota or Alabama. The principle applies equally the same.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

The main reason that the SEC is dominating is that the conference officials allow the schools to over recruit as many as 10 additional recruits a year. The kicker is that those who were previously recruited who haven't panned out are denied a scholarship for the following year to make room for the additional 10. Couple that with the fact that a recruit only needs a D+ gpa to be admitted and you have an SEC recruiting class. Many of their players cannot qualify academically for Big 10 (I refuse to use that stupid new logo) schools. OK, perhaps MSU and OSU. Theo, I'm getting tired of trying to get through to you that DEFENSE wins championships, not fancy offenses. We at Michigan have an offense that's not as exciting, but we now have a Michigan DEFENSE. The result is more WINS!!! What is it that you don't understand? Don't tell me about Auburn and Oregon. They had great defenses. Where are they this year? In 1997, Michigan had a great defense (rated #1 nationally in most categories) and an average offense. The result was a national championship. I can only guess that you have never played the game in H.S. or college. Your understanding of the game seems limited.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:53 p.m.

Fire hoke and hire Meyer. You must be smoking something.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

Some might reply, "But Denard is from Florida!" True. He was recruited by SEC schools, but not as a QB. And even as a wideout or a defensive back he'd be only average in the SEC. The Big 10 has its share of talent. Year after year it produces quality NFL candidates. But the Big 10 does not have the *concentration* of top talent like the big-name schools in the SEC do. I wish the Big 10 *could* draw that talent. We get *some*. But nothing like what LSU, Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas and lately FSU (non-SEC) get. Look at their signing day lists ... they're LOADED with ESPN top 150's and almost always have a couple of 5-stars. Just a fact ... the south is a talent rich, and that talent tends to stay home. Why? Because it can.


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Theo, you notice that Meyer didn't say one of the top 5 coaches, just because he is one of the best Offense minds doesn'tmake him a good coach. Good luck cheering for Arizona this year. Go Blue!


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

There's a reason why the SEC has dominated of late. It's not the offensive scheme. It's the talent. The south produces loads of great talent and that talent stays near home. It's not a given Urban Meyer can draw that talent to Columbus. Nor is it a given Rodriguez can draw talent to Arizona. Happy Thanksgiving, Theo ... you misinformed but loveable lug, you! :-)


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

"We talked about it before," Borges said. "I said, 'You have to use your skills more. You have great skills. Let's make these guys pay for some of this stuff.'" There were quite a few people on this site that were crucifying Coach Borges for making Denard run less and be more of a pocket passer. We now know they jumped the gun and were wrong in their judgement of the situation. Al Borges is a good OC, and he knows what he is doing. We are 10-2 and we are actually scoring MORE points this year than last year ... which is exceptional in a transition year... new coaching staff, new offense, new D (thank God). Great job Coach Borges. Great job Coach Hoke. Go Blue ! Destroy Ohio !


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Eating Buckeye meat right after Thanksgiving. Not so tasty, but still satisfying. Denard is hungry - Please give him Ohio food to chew on. Them Columbine boys deserve to get picked apart. Make a wishbone out of them!


Thu, Nov 24, 2011 : 11:45 a.m.

Let's hope Denard has a game like last week with one less pick. Let's go Blue and kick some Buckeye butt. TiM!