Every time Denard Robinson comes off the field, he gets on the phone to tell offensive coordinator Al Borges what he saw out there. Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they disagree. But Robinson’s always the same: upbeat and just going.

When the junior quarterback came off the field at the end of the third quarter with Michigan losing 24-7, Borges said: “I’m going to find out if you’re a quarterback now. I’m going to find out if you’re a quarterback or not. Because we’re losing, and if we have a chance to get back into this thing, it’s going to be because you make something happen here.”

Robinson’s teammates had already witnessed the take-over-the-game, take-no-prisoners Robinson that single-handedly beat Notre Dame last season and had quarterbacked game-winning drives before.

The Robinson that finished Saturday’s game having accounted for 98.7 percent of his team’s offense was far from the one that started the game. That Robinson was playing too fast, too excited.

Coming off the field after a poor throw, he was the first to admit that his footwork was bad. From his seat in the press box, Borges, too, recognizes the problem when Robinson’s throws are a bit off. It’s either poor footwork or rushing the throw that’s to blame.

The result in the first quarter: 22 yards, one first down, one interception and a 14-point deficit.

“He’s excited all the time,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who isn’t too concerned with Robinson’s excited start. “I’d rather break a bucking bronco than a lame mare.”

Added Borges: “(Robinson’s) still learning all of the little nuances of the offense, and in a pressure packed game like that, with a lot of stuff going on, it’s easy to forget about the little things.”

It didn’t help that the running game was non-existent thanks to a less than ideal push up front combined with a stout Notre Dame 3-4 defense. Three running backs combined for 10 yards on the night.

Like Robinson through the air, there was no rhythm on the ground.

Had Michigan not run just 89 plays in its first two games — when the team usually runs 70 per game — Borges would have been more concerned with his running game.

“I’m trying to find something here,” Borges told Hoke in the first half. “I’m trying to find something to get us off.”

Once Michigan fell behind, Borges and Hoke knew it would be hard to get any momentum with their running backs. So it was up to Robinson, and specifically, his arm.

“We sputtered so bad in the first half of the game,” Borges said. “Now, they’re salty on defense — I don’t want to not give them any credit. It became real evident very early in the game, based on the configuration of their defense, that they were not going to let Denard run the ball outside.

“They had that happen to them a year ago. And they were set up that they were going to force him to beat them throwing the ball, or running the ball inside. So you’ve got to take your shots and when you get your opportunities, your bombs have to land.”

Robinson calmed down and figured out his footwork. Then came the bombs — a 43-yard pass to Junior Hemingway in the second quarter, a 77-yard pass to Hemingway in the third, another 45-yard pass to Hemingway in the fourth, a key 27-yard pass to Kelvin Grady, and then the 64-yard toss to a wide-open Jeremy Gallon to set up the game-winning touchdown. In all, Robinson averaged 30 yards per bomb completed.

As he hit more of them, the perimeter opened up and Robinson was able to take off more, finishing with 108 yards on the ground.

“Offensive football is about getting in sync — running repetitive, successful plays, gaining confidence and starting to feel it,” Borges said. “It’s like a hot three-point shooter. He gets one, gets another and the rim starts looking big. Well, the rim didn’t start getting big until the end of the game.”

By then, Borges’s West Coast offense may have been unrecognizable — he now calls it a hybrid, mixing in the spread offense too.

Borges started calling plays Robinson would be comfortable with, which usually means playing out of the shotgun, where the running backs really couldn’t be featured. So the game turned into Robinson versus the Fighting Irish.

Every person in Schembechler Hall will praise Robinson’s unique ability and, in the same breath, recognize that he alone isn’t enough, saying Michigan can’t win with just one guy.

At times it sounds like this:

“When you have Denard Robinson on your team, 30 seconds is plenty of time to score a touchdown,” said fifth-year senior Ryan Van Bergen of the game’s final drive. “He can run 100 yards in under 10 seconds, so we don’t need to worry about 30 seconds being on the clock.”

But other times, it sounds like this:

“The best teams don’t depend on one player,” Borges said. “Yet, they have that one player that can win for them. I mean, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice.

“There’s never been one guy. There’s always been — someone else has to do something. I worry a little bit about that. But I know when push comes to shove, I want the ball in his hands.”

That hasn’t changed. The offense has. But just like last year, the question persists: who can be counted on to help Robinson?

Robinson started slowly, made some mistakes in the middle and was near perfect at the end. The three interceptions really bother Borges.

When Hoke was asked whether Robinson’s game was categorized as good or bad, he said both, saying Robinson saved the game but made bad decisions at times.

Ultimately, Borges did find out what kind of quarterback Robinson is — a winner, even though it wasn’t pretty.

“As you learn the offense better and understand what you’re doing better, it starts to flow,” Borges said. “Remember when I told you, there’s going to be growing pains in this thing — hopefully they’re not excruciating growing pains. And so far, we’ve had some. … You’ll get to the point that you want to get, if you’re just patient.

“And I think I’m talking to me more than I’m talking to you.”

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