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Posted on Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 6:31 p.m.

Questioned all season, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson saves his best for last

By Nick Baumgardner


Denard Robinson races toward the end zone in the first quarter. He finished with three touchdown passes and two rushing TDs against Ohio State.

Melanie Maxwell |

For Denard Robinson, the questions never relented.

Could he run the pro-style offense? Could he become an efficient passer? Was he carrying the ball too much? Why was he throwing so many interceptions? Should Devin Gardner take over? Should Robinson change positions? Should he have transferred when Rich Rodriguez was fired?

The questions surrounding Robinson and the Michigan football team began before the season started, continued through the year and seemed in intensify week to week.

On Saturday, for at least a moment, the questions stopped.

"I wouldn't rather be (anywhere else), except for with these guys," Robinson said after Michigan's 40-34 win over Ohio State.

After a pause, unprompted, he added: "I'm glad I stayed."

Robinson wouldn't go into too much detail about his personal performance Saturday, but he didn't have to. The numbers did the talking.

The junior signal caller had his most efficient game as a passer when the stakes were the highest, going 14-for-17 for 167 yards and three touchdowns.

Zero interceptions.

On the ground, he was vintage Robinson — carrying the ball 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. And when it was over, no one asked why he ran so many times.

Was it the most impressive performance of his career? Michigan coach Brady Hoke isn't sure. He just knows his quarterback was good in the team's biggest game of the season.

Very good.

"He played well," Hoke said. "He played with a lot of energy and he played with, in my eyes, toughness.

"He went after some of those runs, especially in the second half. It tells you a lot about him and how he feels about his teammates."

Robinson's regular-season numbers are nowhere near as eye-popping as they were a year ago in Rodriguez's spread-option attack. But they're still good.

Robinson finished the 12-game regular-season schedule with 1,163 rushing yards to go along with 16 touchdowns. Through the air, he had plenty of struggles. He completed just 56 percent of his throws for 2,056 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

There certainly won't be any Heisman Trophy talk surrounding Robinson's junior season, but the team couldn't care less.

As a starting quarterback, he won 10 games and he beat Ohio State. That, they say, is all that matters.

"He's matured as a quarterback, he's matured as a player," Michigan senior center David Molk said. "That's the natural progression when you get more games and more plays in.

"He's playing great."

Asked if the performance served as a statement to those who doubted his ability, Hoke said he didn't think so, explaining how he and his coaching staff never wavered on their commitment to Robinson as a starter — and their opinion is the only one that matters.

Denard Robinson is Michigan's starting quarterback, and in case anyone was still curious, that won't change anytime soon.

"I don't know who he's making a statement to, because he's our quarterback and will be our quarterback at Michigan," Hoke said. "Denard went out there as the quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates.

"He couldn't do it by himself, and no one ever does. But I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."

Moving forward for Robinson, there's a chance the questions will never go away. He's not Jim Harbaugh or Elvis Grbac, nor is he Brian Griese, Tom Brady or Chad Henne.

He's unorthodox, he doesn't tie his shoes, and he'll always be known more for his feet than his arm.

But, in the end, he's Michigan's starting quarterback.

No question about it.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Denard played his best game of the season yesterday, no doubt. And what I saw from my seat in the stadium (not yet able to watch the DVR) is that his feet were always planted squarely under him. Always. And hence 14/17 with no interceptions, and I don't recall a truly bad pass in the bunch. This was not true early in the season--throws off his back foot, throws with his feet wildly askew, etc.. Gee, ya don't think that maybe, just maybe, his bad habits had something to do with the coaching (or lack thereof) he received under the last regime, and his improvement is explained by Denard's efforts along with that of the new coaching staff, do ya? Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

Are we still talking about Rodriguez?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

@Don, All but the most fanatical member of the MCC understand that this team is much better coached than last year's, which raises the question: Why the continued fanatical support for the WCiMFH? My answer: For reasons that absolutely cannot be explained there developed among so-called "Michigan fans" a hatred of Lloyd Carr that went beyond reason and into the realm of the bizarre. For these "fans" the WCiMFH was the antithesis of Carr in every way imaginable. And, as it turns out, he was the antithesis of Carr in some ways that were not imaginable, either (e.g., integrity). So, when it all began to blow up, they blamed the object of their hatred--Lloyd Carr--and they continue to do so, for the manifest failures of the WCiMFH. And now, with this year's team being clear and irrefutable evidence (except for B1G replay officials) that the WCiMFH was . . . well . . . the WCiMFH, they refuse to accept that because , to accept that obvious conclusion, they would also have to accept that they had slandered Lloyd Carr both while he was coaching as well as after he left. I mean, here we are, nearly four years after he coached his last game, and the MCC are still bemoaning Lloyd and blaming him for the failures of the WCiMFH. Of course, the team that Hoke succeeded with is essentially the same team as last years--the same team that went 7-6 and that had the worst defense in this history of Michigan football. As far as I'm concerned, this love of the WCiMFH and the hatred of one of the most successful in the program's history can be explained, then, only by the weird psychology of those who continued to exhibit their man crushes. GN&GL


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

David Mayo, from "Don't bore me with the fact that Rich Rodriguez recruited most of these players. If anything, this is the ultimate indictment of how bad his regime was, because he got nowhere near this kind of dedication and production from this group. And to suggest that two coaches, using two different schemes, and with two different life experiences to teach young men, necessarily will get the same results, is a fool's stance, particularly given the proximity of last year's failure to this year's success." Coaching matters. And it's not just the X's and O's. Same article, David Molk on Hoke: "I love him, I love how he coaches, I love his leadership ability and how he does it. I'd do anything for him." Note the last sentence. All along I've said that Hoke will get these players willing to walk through walls for him. And it has come to pass. Denard will never be a deep ball passer. That's okay ... just gotta move the chains. Borges has said all along that Robinson can throw the ball well when he plants his feet and squares his body. As you point out ERMG, we saw that yesterday. This 2010 Michigan team over-achieved ... bless their pea-pickin' hearts. Nobody should operate under the illusion this team is top-10 material. It's not. But it speaks well for the future as Hoke and staff get more and more of the players they need to fit their vision.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

Glad for Michigan.The way the Acted is was like BCS Bowl win.Also very Good year,Congrats all round.Hoke came into a Great Young and speedy Team. Rich is smiling somewhere too,he had it set up.Remember this. Denard Robinison would of never been there,if it weren't for Rich.He made Michigan move away from that 3 yards and a Cloud of Dust.You may not like,no I know you don't like him,but he changed the way Michigan Played Football.Set up your first Night Game in History.You notice now most teams in The Big Ten have Running QB's.Ohio State Has a Good One too,The Badgers went to one too,he was another player that The Big Ten would not of Went after,and they will Blow out The Spartans in Championship Game too.Don't ever go back to Old Michiagn Football,you will fail again.There is not Future in The Past.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

@Don: Unfortunately, far too many fans are like the moron who sits in front of me at the Michigan games. Thankfully he splits his tkt with someone, so I only have to put up with him half the time. But he was there in full force yesterday. Anyway, whenever any play went into the line, whether Fitz or Denard, he was screaming bloody murder about the stupid play calling. It never occurred to him and, apparently, to many of those who think they know football and who enlighten us with their "knowledge" here, that maybe, just maybe, those plays were not meant to go anywhere. If they did--GREAT. But the point of calling them was to set up something else later, or to see how the defense responded to a certain play run from a certain set, or both. Yesterday Fitz and Denard both went over 1000 yards rushing for the season. The only other time that had happened for Michigan was 1975 with Rob Lytle and Gordy Bell. Somehow I don't think that offense was 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Nor was it that way with Rick Leach and Russell Davis. Nor Harbaugh, Morris, McMurtry, and Kolesar. I could go on. I guess my point is that anyone who thinks Michigan football, even at the height of the Bo's emphasis on running, was "3 yards and a cloud of dust" hasn't been paying attention. But there is something funny if one really wants to compare 1975 to 2011. The 1975 team had a true freshman QB, Rick Leach, who did not pass much that year--only 780 yards. Yet the offense averaged 394 yards per game. This year's team is averaging 423 yards per game. I don't think that a difference of 29 yards per game differentiates a "high powered" offense from a sluggish one. We are talking about differences in style here, not results, but the MCC sycophants don't understand that. GN&GL


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

"Denard Robinison would of never been there,if it weren't for Rich." Maybe not. But we would have had several years of Ryan Mallet. He seemed to do very well down at Arkansas. Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- is calling for the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense of the 1970's. Nobody. Repeat: nobody. Have you watched much SEC football this season? Alabama, LSU, Arkansas ... they're *not* running the pure spread offense. Some part of it some of the time, but not every part of it all the time. Why not? Because as ERMG said of Urban Meyer's comments -- defenses have caught up to it. Did you watch the Florida - Florida State game last night? Florida killed itself with stupid offensive mistakes, but the real story of that game was the INSANE defensive play on both sides of the ball. Big, strong and quick defensive linemen causing *havoc* in the backfield. That's the future of college football until offenses figure it out -- what to do with dominating defensive lines that get into the backfield and disrupt plays before they can develop. The spread option with the wide gaps is vulnerable to this. Ask Oregon ... USC was in its backfield all night in their game. Lou Holtz, who I generally don't much care for, said something a few weeks ago that struck me. He said the key to the wishbone, "or any option attack" he said, was an offensive line that can move the line of scrimmage. What do you suppose Hoke and Borges are trying to do? Answer: build an offensive line capable of moving the line of scrimmage. In the coming age of insane defensive line play, that'll be the key. Take a look at what Wisconsin has crafted. Ignore the coaching mistakes of Bielema (who tends to allow the other team's game plan to dictate his game plan). What do they have -- powerful line of scrimmage, dominating back, and this year a mobile QB. Their defensive line isn't LSU's ... but if they had something close to LSU's defensive line Wisconsin would be unst

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

"Don't ever go back to Old Michiagn Football,you will fail again.There is not Future in The Past." Yeah, that's why when he was broadcasting the Iowa-Michigan game, urban Meyer noted that teams are shifting back from the spread to a pro-style power offense because defense have caught up to the spread, but a defense built to stop the spread is vulnerable to the I. But I'm guessing you know more than Urban Meyer. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 11:07 a.m.

Great win for Michigan! That win felt great even from here in So Cal OC. Denard saved his best for last. Where is that lame Silveritus clown?.... Cricket cricket cricket. Numbers do not lie. Great win for these young men. GO BLUE!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 1:45 a.m.

I agree azwolve, even Gardner will be better in his role. I was always confident about next years Bama' Game, I knew what a great coach Hoke was last year out here in San Diego, that's why I kept pushing for him to be the coach last December. Now we have a BCS Bowl practices along with the Spring and Fall camps, the whole team will be scary good, I think we will possibly be a preseason Top 5 Team, for sure Top 10. Anybody with me in their confidence meter for next years opener?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

@RWBill -- a sober but realistic assessment. If not a victory, then at least not an embarrassing defeat. Play hard until the last whistle.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

Not that I've studied who exactly we're losing much, but I don't have a lot of confidence with significant losses on the D line and Molk must be leaving by now. We have a very good recruiting class coming in which will be of no impact in that game, and Saban will have a roster of 5 top 5 classes who have matured from 18 year old boys into mature men. It could turn ugly at which time some of the same jubilant fans today will be calling for Hoke's resignation. I don't know who 'Bama has returning but they will be the most or second most physical and athletic team in the country. I will try to get tix for that game but it will be a very tough matchup. An experienced and flawless DR will be our best hope.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 4 a.m.

I'm cautiously optimistic ... but 'Bama is just loaded with talent and depth.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

After all of the criticism, DR is still standing and producing better than ever. He's finally done it against the big boys of the B10 and lead UM to a 10-2 record and, most importantly, 6-2 in the B10! DR is our QB moving forward and he's earned it. Imagine next year with another full year under Borges...Denard and this offense are going to be scary good.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

If he continues to listen to Borges he'll be wickedly good next year. The one X-factor going into next year is the offensive line. I honestly can't read the tea leaves on how'll that reconstitute that. Molk in particular.

1st Down

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:56 a.m.

None of those guys are Denard Robinson either. We took 1000 yards and assigned it to Fitz. This years offense was more productive and more efficient than last years vaunted offense.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

The interceptions make me cringe as much as the next guy, but it is a shame Robinson is held to the same standard as a pocket passer. If one said, "34 touchdowns to 14 interceptions"... well, that looks pretty good!

Terry Star21

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:47 a.m.

Denard had his 'A' game going on, more runs like last season, passes were maybe best I have seen. 10-2, yes - who woulda' thunk ! Overall great performance, I'm not going to look back and critique - a win is a win is a win is a win ! Happy time hanging around this game afterward, first time in the last four home (osu) games some nasty buckeyes didn't harass me - I love it when they are quiet, heading for the exits. Brady Hoke, Brady Hoke - God Bless You ! MgoBlueForTiM......beat em' senseless untill they shut up and head for the exits...


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

I'm hungry, you hungry?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 5:20 a.m.

Hungry as hell....could go for some "Oranges" or some "Tostitos" maybe some sweet Sugar....


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

Always hungry to beat ohio I think I will keep it like it is 1st Down

1st Down

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

you hungry bro?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

The "eat it up" motion signified the hunger the players had to win in November.


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

Then I hope to see the players eat it up during the bowl game as well! Eat it up, Michigan! Go Blue!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

BO's first win over ohio as MICHIGAN'S new coach in 1969 was his signature win. . . this is coach HOKE'S signature win. . . the worm has turned and with a top 10 or better recruiting class coming in next year the future of MICHIGAN football look's very bright. GREAT GAME, GREAT WIN. . . GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

I'm just posting to demonstrate my new screen name, I might go back to just '"Mick" one day or change it next year to 59-44-6, we'll have to wait and see. Also, yes, Denard had a superb game, I agree wholeheartedly!

1st Down

Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

Nah...keep it Mick...or be Mick TD or something


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

I'm trying to change my screen name to Mick 58-44-6, but it's not working, help!


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : midnight

Denard played very well at home all season but he executed even better these last two games. He took so much criticsm but I for one, did not doubt him. At worst, I called him erratic showing both good and bad traits but he got more consistent and in the bigger games. Denard will be fine going forward. He's a team player and a team leader. A great win, much more higher scoring than I expected but off the charts on the thrill factor. A 10 win season; SWEET. GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Nov 26, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

Great win! Denard did a great all-around job, though I cringed at every pass attempt. Let's hope this passing game is a taste of things to come next year. Nick, any info on the "eat it up" motion the players performed after big plays? I saw several players do it. Something motivational from the coaches?


Sun, Nov 27, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

I believe it is something Denard started and is supposed to signify a starving man eating. Meaning, the Program has been starving for a long time and now it's "time to eat".