Joe Stapleton: Denard, just a teensy favor

Jake Fromm/Daily
Buy this photo

Daily Sports Editor
Published October 2, 2010

BLOOMINGTON — So, Denard. You had another pretty good Saturday. You led Michigan to a 42-35 victory over Indiana in Bloomington and won your first Big Ten road game. No small feat.

You had 494 total yards. You threw three touchdowns and ran for two more. This was your second game this season in which you passed and ran for more than 200 yards — something no one else has ever done in a college career. You even orchestrated a last-second, game-winning touchdown drive (though redshirt junior wideout Junior Hemingway gave you some help).

That being said, I know this is going to sound weird, but…

Could you maybe, I don’t know, slow down a little bit?

Here’s the thing: The defense, for whatever reason, is not good at all right now. I don’t know if it’s passing or coaching or youth — probably a combination of the three — I just know it ain’t good.

The Wolverines allowed 568 total yards to Indiana, 480 of them through the air. They allowed 11 third-down conversions. And this isn’t a new revelation—you could argue the defense hasn’t had a solid game since holding Connecticut to 10 points in the season opener. Heck, they gave up 37 points to Massachusetts, an FCS team.

Like I said, I’m not sure of the cause. But I know they need all the help they can get on the other side of the ball.

Which leads me to my point. Look, I love watching you as much as the next guy. I love watching you run the ball with a speed and agility previously thought impossible for humans. Watching you reminds me of watching Lost; every week, something completely inexplicable and out-of-this-world happens, and it doesn’t make any sense. All I can do is roll with it and watch as the Lost writers rewrite the script and you rewrite the NCAA record books.

It’s just that, well, you score so fast. Like, blindingly fast. And it doesn’t really give your defense much time to rest up on the sidelines.

Try to put yourself in their shoes. Take the first couple drives of this game, for instance. The defense gives up a touchdown to Indiana on the Hoosiers’ first possession of the game after a long, sustained drive. They finally get to the sidelines, already sucking wind. You trot out on the field, shoelaces flapping, and proceed, two plays later, to dart into the end zone so quickly it appears to the untrained eye that you teleported there.

And right after, the poor defense has to get back on the field! If you think about it, it really isn’t fair.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Remember the first score against Notre Dame? That pass to redshirt sophomore Roy Roundtree? Yeah, that took you a whopping five seconds to complete. Even later in the game, you started one scoring drive from the two-yard line. The defense was anticipating a long, sustained drive, but you couldn’t resist, could you? You just HAD to eat up 87 yards on one run. Goodness gracious.

You may be thinking, But Joe, I just take what the defense gives me. How can you expect me to think about how much time I’m spending on the field when I have all the other responsibilities of a starting quarterback to think about? Solid point. Here’s mine: I am thoroughly convinced you can do anything you feel like on a football field, whether you know it or not.

You hold defenses in the palm of your hand. They are at your will. You alone decide their fate, and with a slight clench of your fist, you can grind them to dust. DUST, I say! — (ahem) sorry… I got a little excited. That was embarrassing.

Anyway, I’ve seen you do things on a football field I never thought possible. So is it really that much of a stretch to ask you to not only orchestrate the offense, run the ball, pass the ball, occasionally kick the ball and conduct game-winning drives, but to also make sure you give the defense some rest on the sideline? I don’t think so. Maybe it won’t make a huge difference, but right now, that defense needs all the help it can get.

Of course, make sure you’re still scoring around five or six touchdowns per game — even with the defense getting more rest, something tells me you’ll still need to score a heckuva lot of points for Michigan to win. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue — you’ve scored at least two touchdowns in each game since the season opener, and against Bowling Green you only needed a quarter to do that.

That’s not asking too much, is it? Wait — I forgot one thing: stay healthy. I know the media has been saying that so much it’s becoming a cliché, but just thought I’d mention it.

You can do all that, right?

I mean, after all, you are Denard Robinson.