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Luke Pasch: Admit it, you still love him

Erin Kirkland/Daily
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By Luke Pasch, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 23, 2012

SOUTH BEND — It’s halftime at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish are leading the Wolverines 10-0, and you take your phone out to see what the Twitter-sphere has to say about it.

Anybody who writes anything about Michigan football is telling you the Wolverines have thrown five straight picks. No. Not just interceptions on five straight Michigan possessions. Interceptions on five straight pass attempts.

That’s not possible, is it? You think about it.

One … two … three … four … oh, wow. It is possible. But the first one was actually thrown by running back Vincent Smith in the first quarter, so Denard Robinson isn’t that bad of a passer.

It’s not a particularly reassuring silver lining, but you’ll do anything to forgive Denard. Admit it: your love for him is unconditional, because even though he got you into this mess, you’re forced to accept that he’s the lone soul who can get you out of it.

Just a year ago, against Notre Dame, Denard did next to nothing through the first three quarters, and Michigan entered the final period down 17. Then he led a magical comeback in the final moments that will forever be near the forefront of his legacy at Michigan.

Denard leads his team into quicksand, and his teammates hang onto the back of his jersey for dear life as he pulls them out the other side of the pit.

But in South Bend on Saturday, the quicksand won.

On Michigan’s first drive of the second half, Denard methodically marched the Wolverines down into the Notre Dame red zone. He looked confident. He hit his targets. Good Denard is back.

It’s third down with three yards to go on Notre Dame’s 16-yard line, and Denard keeps it for a five-yard rush up the gut. First down. But wait, Irish defenders jump up and down saying they have it, and Denard lays on the ground in frustration.

Collective face-palm. For some reason, you search for any excuse to not blame Denard. You tell yourself that was solid defense, that somebody must have gotten a helmet on the ball. Nothing could’ve been done about that.

You go back to Twitter and find out Denard is now Michigan’s all-time leader in total yards. Nothing sums up his enigmatic career better than the fact that he just passed Chad Henne’s yardage mark (9,400) in the midst of one of the most abysmal performances of his college career. You scroll further down your feed, and there it is — he also surpassed Henne's mark for the most interceptions (37).

Sounds about right.

After the game, a somber Denard talked to the media.

“I want to say sorry to everybody who watches Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football," he said. "I want to say sorry. It won’t happen no more. I’m going to be accountable for the rest of the season, I’ll tell you that much.”

Shades of Tim Tebow. Seriously, there’s no way you can hate this guy. He’s a natural-born leader, just cursed with a subpar arm.

Part of you longs for Shane Morris — the pocket-passing stud who actually fits offensive coordinator Al Borges’s system — set to arrive in Ann Arbor next fall. But Denard’s no redheaded stepchild. You still love him.

You love his unbridled optimism, his infectious smile. You love his untied shoelaces. You loved him from the first time he lined up in the shotgun in a Michigan uniform, when, like a magician, he picked up a fumbled snap and turned it into a 43-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan.

You love that Denard helps opponents up off the ground when the play is over — even last season against Michigan State, well after Spartan defensive end William Gholston showed utter disrespect for human life by diving into a pile and purposefully twisting Denard’s facemask 90 degrees to the left.

In the postgame press conference on Saturday, a disheveled Brady Hoke reminded the media that Denard “has done a pretty doggone good job being a quarterback at Michigan.”

Fergodsakes. Where would the Wolverines be right now without him? His receiving corps is thin, his running backs aren’t producing and his offensive line is inconsistent. Denard is the beginning, middle and end of Michigan’s offense, and it’s been that way pretty much his whole career.

This week you’ll listen to ESPN pundits tell you Denard is a crappy passer. And yeah, it’s true. But you’ll still smile because, admit it — you still love Denard.

— Luke Pasch can be reached at lpasch@umich.edu or on Twitter: @lucaspasch.