September 04, 2010
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Michigan 30, UConn 10. Michigan fans have been through this before: This time last year, Denard Robinson was warping the time-space continuum on the first snap of his college career, and fellow true freshman Tate Forcier was still establishing himself as a folk hero a full month into the Wolverines' 4-0 start in Rich Rodriguez's second year – you know, the one that crashed and burned through seven straight Big Ten losses over the last two months of the season. So there's no rush to anoint Robinson the messiah of the woebegone Rich Rodriguez era after his first career start, however exceptional.
But, you know, as first career starts go, it was exceptional. Starting from his own two on the Wolverines' first possession, Robinson accounted for 72 of 98 yards on a marathon touchdown drive; on the second possession, he pulled it down for the last 32 yards of a 77-yard drive to put Michigan up 14-0. By the end of the afternoon, he'd taken all but one snap, hit 19 of 22 passes with a touchdown and no interceptions, set a school record for a quarterback with 198 yards rushing and obliterated any semblance of the simmering controversy with Forcier or true freshman Devin Gardner. Basically, he was the best possible version of the all-purpose nightmare that had Michigan fans brimming with nervous optimism after making a move for Forcier's job in the spring. Obviously, it's Robinson's job for now.
And if one big game against a Big East also-ran is hardly a guarantee of future returns in the Big Ten, it is a relief: Also-ran or not, UConn came in looking a lot like the Utah team that commenced the Rodriguez era with a minor upset in the Big House in 2008, a borderline top 25 outfit on the brink of a breakthrough season that happened to catch perhaps the most un-Michigan-like edition of Michigan on the cusp of disaster. Before that, there was Appalachian State; after, there was Toledo. There was also UConn's win in South Bend last November, the death knell of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame. Even if there was such a thing as a gimme in Ann Arbor anymore, the Huskies wouldn't qualify.
But they were dispatched with an old-school quickness, anyway, in pretty much the same fashion they would have been five years ago (dreadlocked quarterback running the zone read out of the shotgun notwithstanding). That may mean nothing next week at Notre Dame, or after the start of the Big Ten schedule in October. But at least the partisans have an excuse to feel some genuine optimism for a change, if they dare.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.