Eastern Michigan coach Ron English was asked whether he had a good game plan in defending Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson Saturday.
English paused, then let out a hearty laugh.
“Oh shoot, you know?”
Not many people have explanations for what Robinson can do anymore.
Robinson completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the second-straight game. But in Michigan’s 31-3 win over Eastern Michigan, his running left more people than English laughing at what he could do.
Robinson used 26 carries to gain 198 yards. A quarter of those yards came on one play.
After their first three drives, the Wolverines found themselves behind, 3-0. Robinson’s first four carries netted him just 19 yards. After getting the ball back on Michigan’s three-yard line, Robinson kept the ball on a read option and ran up the middle. He cut to the sideline and took off.
Eventually, Robinson was stuck in between redshirt junior wide receiver Roy Roundtree and the sideline. He slowed and tried to cut back but was swallowed up after 52 yards.
“I was kind of being patient,” Robinson said. “I thought (Roundtree) was going to probably push the guy down or something and I should’ve just sped up and just got him and took a side.”
The rest of the drive consisted of four more Robinson rushes and two passes. It ended with Robinson faking the read option and throwing a quick pass to senior tight end Kevin Koger.
The Eagles couldn’t stop Robinson on the ground. Michigan realized it and gave him the ball 21 more times as they went on to score 31 unanswered points, putting away a game that ended the first quarter 0-0.
“As much as you say to a player, ‘He’s going to make plays,’ I think it can be demoralizing,” English said.
It was never the design to run Robinson as much as they did. Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Al Borges said he wanted Robinson to carry the ball about 15 to 17 times.
“We don’t want to get him beat up,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “We’re going to play in a pretty physical league, so we have to make sure we get other ways. … It takes a toll on your body, and he’s not the biggest guy in the world.”
But, while Michigan got 118 yards from junior running back Vincent Smith, the Wolverines needed Robinson to continue running the football because of his struggles in the passing game from the outset.
On Michigan’s first drive, Robinson threw behind his receiver for an interception while attempting to convert on fourth down. Early in the second quarter, fifth-year senior wide receiver Junior Hemingway had beaten his cornerback on third down. Robinson overthrew the long touch pass.
Robinson finished the game 7-for-18 for just 95 yards and one interception. He did have two touchdown passes — his second going to sophomore wide receiver Drew Dileo — but it was the second straight game Robinson had completed just two passes in the first half.
“I think we just got to be better with our feet, setting our feet on some throws,” Hoke said. “That’s usually is where it starts with a quarterback.”
By the end of the game, Robinson got benched — in a good way. With 39 seconds left in the game, sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner trotted out to take the last three snaps. Two were handoffs, the final was a designed quarterback run for seven yards.
When a quarterback passes for less than 100 yards and still controls the game enough so that the backup quarterback comes in for mop-up duty, sometimes all you can do is laugh.