Opinion: Michigan's Denard Robinson says right things, but he's running out of time
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was Denard Robinson's 22nd birthday. And it was the most disappointing day of his life.
Not in football. Life.
The Michigan quarterback tossed four first-half interceptions -- each on consecutive throws -- and later coughed up a fumble in the Wolverines' 13-6 loss Saturday against No. 11 Notre Dame.
He was the biggest reason Michigan's offense couldn't muster a single touchdown for the first time since 2007. He was the biggest reason his team lost.
"This is the most disappointed I ever been in myself in I don't know long," Robinson said. "The 22 years I've been livin', this is the most disappointed I've been in myself.
"I don't want to feel like this anymore."
While Robinson passed Chad Henne to become Michigan's all-time leader in total offense, he also passed Henne to become the school's all-time interceptions king.
"I want to say sorry to everybody who watches football, watches Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football," a raw and brutally honest Robinson said after the game. "I want to say sorry and it won't happen no more. I'm going to be accountable for the rest of the season -- I'll tell you that much."
The honesty is refreshing. Robinson faced a horde of tape recorders and video cameras in a cramped quarters of Notre Dame Stadium, and held his head high.
But at some point, Robinson's act — chew up weaker defenses, struggle against better ones — becomes tiresome.
He is the school's all-time offensive leader, and no one can take that away from him. He's had moments of brilliance.
But he's also stunk against strong defenses, especially on the road. And his bipolar play paralyzes a Michigan (2-2) team that flows its offense through him.
The bad Robinson showed up against Notre Dame. He finished 13-of-24 passing for 138 yards, four picks and no touchdowns. He rushed 26 times for 90 yards.
He was held out of the end zone for the time since last year's weather-shortened opener against Western Michigan.
The biggest number of all, though, was four. As in, the picks he threw in a four-pass stretch in the first half. At least two hit defenders directly in the chest, a sight that's not really uncommon with Robinson.
Michigan actually threw picks on five consecutive throws, counting a Vincent Smith halfback pass at the goal line. That was one of two times the Wolverines reached Notre Dame's 10-yard line in the first half, yet did not score.
That failure to capitalize is crushing in a seven-point game.
"This was the worst game of my career," Robinson said.
Robinson smiled on the sideline, even in the midst of his pick streak. He did his best to regroup, to stay composed. But his play became unglued.
The frustrating thing for Michigan is, these struggles aren't new. Robinson hasn't had a night quite this bad, but it does fit a pattern.
Robinson is just 82-of-168 passing (48.8 percent) for eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions in seven games away from Ann Arbor the past two years. His team averages 19.4 points in those games, and 40.1 at home.
Michigan, likewise, is 3-4 on the road and 10-0 at home.
The turnovers against Notre Dame spoiled what otherwise was an improved performance from the defense. It forced two turnovers, doubling its season total, and held the Irish to just 239 yards, including 94 on the ground. It forced ND to bench its quarterback, Everett Golson.
But it wasn't enough. Robinson's miscues were the death knell for a team whose fortunes ebb and flow with the play of its quarterback.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges has called Robinson "intoxicating," because of what he can do with his feet. And when he's firing, Michigan can rout teams such as UMass.
But when he's not, the Wolverines don't stand a chance.
Notre Dame further proved that, joining the likes of Alabama, Michigan State and others the past couple years. Those teams forced him to pass, and Robinson continues to fail.
Will he ever figure this out?
"Whatever it takes to win," Robinson said. "Whatever it takes for the team to win, that's what I'm going to do."
He's running out of time to prove it in a consistent way.