BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 27, 2010
COLUMBUS — For the first time all season, Denard Robinson didn’t smile.
Through the season’s first 11 games, it didn’t matter whether it was a record-breaking day or a five-turnover performance — the Wolverines’ sophomore quarterback flashed his pearly whites at least once.
But after No. 8 Ohio State thoroughly dismantled Michigan 37-7 on Saturday — extending the Buckeyes' win steak in The Game to seven — Robinson didn’t break out his familiar grin. His somber stare was more startling than any teammate’s or coach’s.
Robinson didn’t say much, per usual. He told reporters he thought he took a helmet to his left, non-throwing hand, which dislocated two fingers and hindered his playmaking ability in the second half of the game. He said the offense needed to make plays, and it simply didn’t.
No smiles, no excuses. Attempts at explanations came from coaches.
“(The offense) just wasn't in sync,” offensive coordinator Calvin Magee said after the game. “You know, we did move the ball in the first quarter and you got to capitalize on those. We've been talking about turnovers all year, and you just can't do it.”
Michigan began unraveling early. Robinson’s first-quarter fumble inside the Ohio State 10-yard line gave way to the Buckeyes’ first scoring drive. Another fumble and an interception brought the Wolverines’ turnover total to three, which stood in stark contrast to the Buckeyes’ lone interception (one nullified by time expiring at the end of the first half).
Turnovers are drive-stallers and momentum-killers.
“At the beginning of the year, we had no problems with turnovers and the last part of the year, we’ve had more of it,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I’ll have to watch the film to see why. We’ll get to the point where we can overcome those. We’ll be good enough in all three phases to overcome some of those bad spots, and obviously today, we weren’t good enough to overcome those.”
Michigan has focused on preventing turnovers and limiting penalties in recent weeks, particularly after a pair of five-turnover games against Illinois and Purdue. Still, the results haven’t changed — and they’ve hindered the Wolverines’ ability to get into an offensive rhythm against good teams.
Once Ohio State started rolling — a 24-point second quarter that featured two passing touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown — the game was pretty much over. After sophomore quarterback Tate Forcier opened the third quarter with an interception, the second half felt merely like a formality.
The Wolverines offense was held to its lowest point total of the season, and the defense gave up 478 yards to the Buckeyes, who were led by junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s 220 passing yards.
The insurmountable combination of turnovers, penalties and timely drops — the team's leading receiving Roy Roundtree had four himself just in the first half — boiled down to mental mistakes, players said after the game. Junior nose tackle Mike Martin said those are execution problems, and some of the fault lies in the youth on the roster.
Ohio State took advantage of Michigan’s mistakes, just as it has throughout its decade of dominance. Saturday’s win is the Buckeyes’ seventh in a row over the Wolverines, and it earned Ohio State a share of the Big Ten Championship — the Buckeyes' sixth straight conference title.
“I’m ticked,” Rodriguez said. “What do you want me to go jump out there and go hold hands with all the Buckeye fans and sing Kumbaya? I mean, I wish we would’ve played better. Our guys played hard and that’s to be expected, but I wish we would’ve executed better. I’m going to be mad for a while, then we’ll move on to the next one — the next one’s not going to be for a month. This will sting for a little bit, which it should. We’ll think about it a little bit, which you should. But you can’t replay it, unfortunately.”
The loss will certainly put greater pressure on Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon to fire his embattled head coach. The end of the game saw a flurry of tweets from prominent Michigan football alumni chiming in and calling for Rodriguez to be canned.
Among them was Jay Feely, an NFL kicker for 10 years, who wrote: "Kills me watching Michigan struggle like they have the last three years!! Not even competitive in Big Ten games. Time for a change"
For its part, the Athletic Department thanked its "loyal fans" after the game.
The official Michigan football Twitter account said: "Special thanks our loyal fans following us through the good and bad each Saturday. The best fans in college football! #goblue and thanks!"