Images of Ohio State and Texas quarterbacks Troy Smith and Vince Young dismantling the Wolverines’ defense last season still haunt many Michigan football fans. This Saturday, Michigan fans could be in for a scare when another dual-threat quarterback – Penn State’s fifth-year senior Michael Robinson – comes to town.
It’s true that Michigan stopped the running abilities of Michigan State’s Drew Stanton in the Wolverines 34-31 win, but Stanton has not looked to run as much as he did last season. Holding him to zero yards didn’t look as impressive when he refused to run. But it was still a step in the right direction for a Michigan defense that had been criticized for its inability to stop a mobile quarterback.
The Wolverines now have a chance to show they can stop a multi-purpose signal caller – Robinson has shown that he is more than willing to tuck the ball and pound out a few yards on the ground.
Through six games this year, Robinson is the Nittany Lions’ second-leading rusher, tallying 338 yards on 78 carries and chipping in five rushing touchdowns. But he also has shown himself to be a competent passer, tossing nine touchdowns for more than 1,100 yards.
“He is a great athlete, and he runs like a tailback,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I think he (has) really developed as a thrower.”
In the first four games this year, Robinson had some turnover problems. Prior to Penn State’s 44-14 victory over Minnesota, Robinson fumbled and lost the ball four times, while also throwing six interceptions. But since then, the dynamic quarterback has taken care of the ball and led his team with poise.
“He is definitely our leader,” Penn State redshirt freshman receiver Deon Butler said. “We definitely look up to him each time we get into the huddle. He is always so calm and says, ‘Hey guys, we are going to drive this many yards. We are about to score.’ When you get into a huddle with a guy like Mike, he puts so much confidence into you.”
Carr and some of the veterans on Michigan know what Robinson can do with the ball in his hands. They saw it first-hand three years ago, the last time Penn State and the Wolverines played.
Robinson was all over the field, playing quarterback, wide receiver and running back. He finished with just 36 yards, but he showed his versatility even then.
“They have a quarterback who is really a running back with a quarterback’s arm,” senior co-captain Pat Massey said. “He is somebody who can do it all.”
Robinson has proven to be adept at running the attack, so it will be up to the Wolverines’ defense, especially the front seven to stop Robinson and the spread offense attack. The option offense means that defensive ends LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch will have to watch Robinson constantly and put a hit on him every time he comes to their side.
“When you are dealing with an option team, the stress that it puts on the end of the line of scrimmage – the perimeter guys up front – they don’t block them on the option,” Carr said. “If they get up the field too far, the quarterback darts inside. So they have to be disciplined.”