Denard Robinson, beneficiary of Purdue keying on tailback, says 'thank you Fitz'
ANN ARBOR -- Denard Robinson looked rattled against Notre Dame. Michigan came out firing down field, and he didn't handle it well.
He threw four picks in the first half, a big talking point as the Wolverines rested the following week. It gnawed at him. He just wanted to get back on the field and prove his doubters wrong. Make it up to his teammates.
When Michigan finally retook the field against Purdue, Robinson was superb.
He completed only eight passes, but not much more was expected of him in the air. Michigan instead went to the ground, rolling up a season-high 304 yards in the 44-13 win.
No. 25 Michigan (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) might use that game plan going forward. It might not.
Robinson doesn't care either way.
"(It's however) the game flow go," he said Tuesday. "Whatever it takes to win. Sometimes I'm going to have to throw the ball 50 times. Sometimes I'm going to have to run the ball -- the running back going to have to run the ball -- 50 times. Whatever it takes to win, however the game flow go, that's how we're going to play."
Against Purdue, it was all Robinson.
The Boilermakers keyed on stopping tailback Fitz Toussaint, who had a 170-yard breakout game against them last year, and Robinson was the benficiary.
He finished with 235 yards on the ground, and surpassed former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El to become the Big Ten's all-time leading rushing quarterback.
"Last year he had a great game against them," Robinson said. "He broke out that game, had a phenomenal game, so I wasn't surprised (they keyed on him). A couple of my runs came off them keying on him.
"The big runs likely came from him, because it was a read. So, thank you Fitz."
Robinson said he doesn't put much stock in surpassing Randle El, nor his ever-rising presence on career leader boards. He says he's focused on his team's Big Ten title pursuit, which continues Saturday against Illinois (3:30 p.m., ABC).
He also gave credit to his offensive line, which helped spring him for the big day.
"They do all the work, and hat's off to them," Robinson said. "They've been playing ball. We controlled the ball basically that whole game, and that's because of them."
Although Robinson preferred to get back out on the field after his dismal performance against Notre Dame, offensive coordinator Al Borges said the quarterback benefited from the off week.
"We spent a lot of time trying to fix our problems, knowing that we weren’t as good as we could play offensively," Borges said. "You have to identify the problems and admit where your shortcomings are, both as coaches and as a player, and address those. We had a lot of time to address them.
"I think that helped him reach a comfort level. Had there been just a week? I don’t know. We probably would have been fine. I don’t know. But having two weeks just helped us get grounded, get back to where we were."
Borges said he continues to see development in the passing game from Robinson, noting the Notre Dame performance was an aberration.
They addressed issues with the quarterback's footwork and decision making during the off week, then came out against Purdue focusing on the run. When they did pass, they went with short or intermediate routes that decreased the threat for turnovers and increased the probability of completions.
Robinson found a comfort zone, which helped erase the memories of the Notre Dame game early.
"I think his passing, up to the Notre Dame game, from a fundamental perspective had gotten a lot better," Borges said. "I said that, and guys looked at me like I have 10 heads because he didn’t play very well against Notre Dame, by his own admission, but we kind of went back and said, 'OK, what got us to that improved state? What are we going to do?’
"From a playcaller’s perspective and from a game planning perspective, my job is to keep him comfortable. ... He played smart. The whole game. He threw a ball away, where I think the Notre Dame game he probably would have tried to make something happen in there because he was trying to get us back.
"And not just decisions in the passing game, but decisions in our running game because that’s huge with our zone-read game and with all that stuff. He graded really well. Yeah I was pretty happy with what he did."