Brady Hoke challenges his offensive line, and says he believes progress has been made
But rather than putting the game on the shoulders of Robinson, the Michigan football coach looked up front -- and delivered a message to his offensive line.
"At halftime, he walked in calm, and just told us flat out that 'the rest of this game is on the offensive line,' " Michigan junior left tackle Taylor Lewan said Monday. "I think every single offensive lineman that played in that game took that to heart."
After laying down a challenge to his front five, a group that has struggled to find cohesion and a uniform identity through four games this season, Hoke says he believes the offensive line has finally turned a corner.
Michigan junior running back Fitz Toussaint racked up 56 of his 58 yards against Notre Dame in the second half, and the pressure that was consistently in the face of Robinson early on, seemed to subside a bit after the break.
Hoke maintains the performance was in no way where he wants it to be, but from the group's last 30-minute playing sample, he says he's encouraged.
"They kind of got the message," Hoke said. "I can’t even tell you how many yards we rushed for, but you could feel a presence on the field.
"I don't know if anything clicked, (but) when a coach says we're going to count on you guys to finish this (it sinks in). I think they took a lot of pride in it."
Michigan's running backs have only rushed for 276 yards through four games, averaging out to just 69 yards per contest. And to this point in the season, Michigan has yet to put together a full 60-minute effort of consistent football up front.
But, the Wolverines have faced two of the best front sevens in America so far this season in both Alabama and Notre Dame, teams that rank No. 4 and No. 29, respectively, in the nation against the run this season.
And through those early struggles, a bond has been formed, according to Lewan.
The Wolverines were tasked with replacing Rimington Award winner David Molk and dependable right tackle Mark Huyge this season, and through four games, Lewan says the front five has finally developed a comfort-level.
"(Center) Elliott Mealer continues to do a great job, in my opinion," Lewan said. "People keep looking at him and (wondering) 'how's he going to do replacing Dave Molk,' people need to stop looking at that ... Elliott's done a great job.
"Ricky Barnum, I've had a different (left guard) every year I've been here, and he's stepped up to the challenge. ... The offensive line (finally) figured out that this team can be successful, or not successful, based on our performance. And when they say games can be won or lost in the trenches, that's the truth, and that's how it's always going to be."
Lewan insists the offensive line has gotten Hoke's message loud and clear.
Asked whether or not his coach will have to deliver that speech again this season, Lewan says no -- his unit has figured it out, and doesn't plan on taking any steps backward.
"I sure hope not," he said. "This offensive line has learned that we can be successful against good teams, like Notre Dame, in the future.
"I think the sky's the limit for us as long as we do what we're told and we do what we know we're capable of doing. ... Guys have to gel. We're starting to gel, we're starting to figure it out and starting to become more of a family."