You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 1:11 a.m.

So goes Shoelace, so goes Michigan: Denard Robinson's halftime adjustments make the difference

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said halftime adjustments allowed him to avoid turnovers in the second half against Northwestern.

Melanie Maxwell |

Denard Robinson, as he is wont to do, played fast against Northwestern. It benefited him on the ground, as it so often does.

It cost Michigan's junior quarterback through the air, though, as he threw three ill-advised interceptions in the first half — each of which badly missed their mark. The turnovers led to 10 Northwestern points, the difference in a 24-14 halftime deficit for the Wolverines.

Each pick looked progressively worse as his mechanics abandoned him.

But Robinson settled down in the second half, when he went 7-for-8 passing for 149 yards. He didn't throw a second-half touchdown, but also didn't throw a second-half pick. That helped his 12th-ranked Michigan football team reel off 28 unanswered second-half points Saturday to beat Northwestern, 42-24, in its first road game of the season.

What was Robinson's problem? He said he was playing too quickly, which caused issues in his fundamentals.

"I guess I get too excited," Robinson said. "I have to just calm down."

Robinson said his second-half turnaround began with a conversation he had during halftime with offensive coordinator Al Borges.

What was said? Slow down, focus on your footwork and set your feet. That, apparently, was the key.

Robinson finished 17-for-26 passing for 337 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and ran for 117 more yards as Michigan (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) played one its best halves of the year — on the road, no less.

"I stepped into the throws like I was supposed to — like coach told me to," Robinson said.

In the first half that, that wasn't the case.

Robinson's first pick came on Michigan's second drive. He was targeting senior Junior Hemingway, but the pass was badly overthrown. Hemingway had no chance. Northwestern turned the pick into a touchdown to take its first lead, 14-7.

Robinson's second pick came on a fake throw. He didn't square himself, and missed badly again.

On the third, Robinson threw off his back foot toward a sea of purple shirts. It was the worst pick of the three.

But he recovered with that efficient second half, one he actually left with a left hand injury he characterized as a "boo-boo."

Coach Brady Hoke was impressed with Robinson's maturity in the second half, and how he took Borges' message to heart.

"He’s a competitor," Hoke said. "He’s a sharp guy, tremendous energy and leader on our team. Him and Al talked a little bit, and talked about what we wanted to do offensively.

"And, again, you go back to making sure your fundamentals and techniques (are sound). I mean, that’s all we talked about was fundamentals and techniques."

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



Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

Looking back, it's not surprising the Wolverines had trouble on their first tilt against a fairly good team. Credit to NU: they surprised with their good technique and performance in the first half. The better part is that the Wolverines adjusted and, from what Coach Hoke said, it was just a matter of reminding the players of the fundamentals. Michigan is establishing a great points & yardage per game stat. Amazing when you stop to think they're racking up these figures in half a game! Same applies to the Michigan D: just when you think they can't do worse, they turn around and do the unbelievable. Other "first seasons" - for both the Big Ten Network and's Michigan football beat reporter. BTN in particular annoys me to no end (and they have "help" from the likes of Comcast). Young announcers and reporters will have to take a clue from people like Brady Hoke: work on fundamentals, work to improve, BELIEVE you can do better. Go Blue! Beat MSU!


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

The BTN is really poor in much of its coverage. I think the studio hosts are fine, but the game announcers consistently get players wrong, get teams names wrong, and give wrong info. They are seemingly unprepared. Their entire broadcasting focus is on 12 teams now, and you would think they would be able to handle it But how many times have we heard unprofessional mistakes? Miss beginning of plays? etc? I have complained to UM's athletic department but like most things, they don't care one iota. It's too bad that Big Ten conference has no pride . Re: shoelace? What a great leader and exciting player. So glad he's ours.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

Regarding BTN: Too many games and not enough talent. Viewers are more sophisticated. Obvisouly the talent BTN has this season are working for dirt cheap and are entry level status type people. Too bad the radio and TV broadcasts are not in sync. I would have loved to listen to Frank and Jim call the game on the radio and watched the TV feed. Used to do that back in day, especially when the Great Bob Ufer was still with us.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

For sure, BTN is painful.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

So Robinson's second half adjustments were based on Borges telling him to slow down and focus. Does anyone know what adjustments Mattison made? In the first half it looked like Northwestern had Michigan's defense confused ... yet in the 2nd half no points.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

I observed that the defense did not expect the option pitches to the RB's of the first half and NW gained many yards running at the sides. In the second half they closed the sides and forced Persa to throw and that is when they stopped the offense.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

Getting back to the real topic about the impact of ole "Shoelace"; I am more confident about how the offense operates under Devin Gardner. The one series of plays in the second half in which Denard went out becuase of the issue with his left hand, made me very happy to see how well Devin Gardner did on his own. Devin operated very well in the Red Zone and scored the TD himself on the sweep to the right. He's a gamer. It showed me that this offense will keep chugging without Denard if is has to. Denard is a very special talent. Now that we are half way through season and will play more stout defenses, Devin will more important to the offenseive unit. He must be practicing very well during the week for the coaches to give him meaningful snaps during the game. He really came through. No choke in him. Denard needs to stay healthy. The rest of the pieces of the offense shows more promise. I like the trend, upward and onward. You grammer experts should contact Kyle by phone, email or twitter if you have a real issue.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Agree 100% That is why I favored Borges getting Gardner some snaps in every game close or not so that he could be developed properly while being the backup to Denard. Playing them at the same time is also good. UM is in good hands with Gardner in the team.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

I was impressed with Devin because he didn't try to prove himself or do too much, he simply handed off twice, then ran the bootleg when called upon, no turnovers, no mistakes, 6 points. Couldn't ask for more.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

In Big Ten play, it is important to have backups with game experience. The starters could get hurt momentarily or they could have an off game. Shaw and Gardner filled up those needs when the RB's Toussaint and Smith were checked and when Denard hurt his hand. The backups did a good job for the team.


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

"Denard Robinson, as he is wont to do, played fast against Northwestern" "Robinson finished 17-for-26 passing for 337 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and ran for 117 more as Michigan (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) played one its best halves of the year — on the road, no less." "Robinson's first pick came came on Michigan's second drive." "Robinson's second pick came on fake throw." Please delete this comment once a moderator sees it. I don't want to be seen as a grammar Nazi but these errors annoyed me.

Steve Coatney

Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 12:35 a.m.

As Strode said, there is no error in the first example. "Wont" is used appropriately, and while I'm not a big fan of a phrase like "played fast", it is valid grammar. I personally would have added a "with prior to "two touchdowns", and a comma after "three interceptions" in the second example, but I wasn't too bothered by the lack thereof. Errors like "came came" happen pretty easily these days given the speed of turnaround in 21st century press. It goes with the territory, though I agree they should do better. It looks like they've now corrected it, as well as the "came on fake throw".


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 8 p.m.

This is the devolution of American English as the informality of internet blogging has become the grammatical standard of "professional journalism". This line has become blurred as the huddled masses have become aware that their own expertise and opinions have as much merit as the journalists we once held in high regard.

Thomas Strode

Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

There is no error in the first example. Please look up the word "wont".


Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

TWSUofM, is filled with these unforgivable errors. It makes you wonder what prior occupation the "reporters" held previous to their current employment. As I've mentioned many times, this is what happens when Spell Check replaces Copy Editors.

1st Down

Sun, Oct 9, 2011 : 5:45 a.m.

Word to DRob: Dont think. Just set your feet and thow baby. Go Blue. 6-0. This Is Michigan.