September 11, 2010
Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24. Earlier this week, I specifically warned against gulping the Kool-Aid that was inevitably going to follow one of these limping powerhouses' rise to 2-0, and sure enough, we have our grand, hopeful narrative: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is kind of unreal. In and of itself, that's pretty predictable at this point in the season. For some perspective with 10 games still left to play, we only have to go back a year, to when Robinson's 2009 classmate, Tate Forcier, was being hailed as an emerging folk hero for orchestrating a dramatic, comeback win over Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, an aura that stayed with him a full month into the Wolverines' 4-0 start ... at which point they proceeded to crash and burn through seven straight Big Ten losses to end the season. Twelve months later, Forcier is a third-string transfer risk.
At some point, though, you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives. Denard Robinson isn't a scrappy, undersized freshman; two weeks into his starting career, Robinson has been really unreal. This game featured both Joe Montana's son in extended action for Notre Dame and a pair of former five-star recruits hooking up on a 95-yard touchdown pass to put ND up 24-21 with a little over four minutes to play, completing a 17-0 run out of a two-touchdown hole at halftime. But nothing could pry the spotlight from another Robinson masterpiece, one that made last week's eye-popping coming-out show against UConn look like a preseason warmup.
"Shoelace" was responsible for running or throwing on 68 of the Wolverines' 81 offensive snaps, for 499 of their 529 total yards. He turned in the highlight run, an 87-yard sprint in the second quarter that broke the Notre Dame Stadium record and put Michigan up 21-7. He didn't turn the ball over. he dropped a pooch punt inside the ND five-yard line. And when it came down to one, last-gasp drive for the game following the Dayne Crist-to-Kyle Rudolph bomb, he answered by accounting for every inch of a 12-play, 72-yard march, at one point completing five straight passes and eventually taking in the winning touchdown himself from two yards out.
If you're charting every snap, he threw off the wrong foot a couple times and skipped a couple passes in front of open guys. He fumbled once (Michigan recovered). He wasn't all that efficient. The offense went into a lull in the third quarter and wound up punting 10 times. But in the big picture, he was pure electricity for the second week in a row. There's no reason yet not to hail him as the next coming of Pat White in Rodriguez's spread 'n shred, except sample size.
With UMass, Bowling Green and Indiana on tap, the numbers and superlatives over the next month could start to get really out of hand. But we've got the basic story already: As long he's healthy, Denard Robinson is for real, and then some. Real enough to get the Wolverines back over .500 in the Big Ten and into contention for a January bowl game? Just to be safe, that question mark's going to linger for a while.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.