Why Michigan’s Denard Robinson is ready to slow down

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Denard Robinson

A Michigan football team that’s markedly improved over last year’s 5-7 record has been rejuvenated under the leadership of sophomore stud QB Denard Robinson.  It appears a dark – though brief – chapter in maize and blue history has come to an end.  The blazing fast recruit from Deerfield Beach, Florida has made good on a fat stash of potential, and the Wolverines are back in business.

The praise and hype for the kid they call “shoelace” (he doesn’t tie them when he plays) is well deserved.  Robinson has broken the Michigan single game yardage record.  No Big Ten quarterback has ever rushed for as many yards in a game.  He leads the nation in rushing yards per game, and stands second in total offense.  If you’re looking for an Achilles heel, you won’t find it.  At least not yet.

By Josh Weinstock

But after his first serious test against a top-50 defensive unit, Robinson showed he’s at least part-human.  Again totaling 300+ all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, Robinson failed to rush for the century mark for the first time, and threw a career-worst three interceptions.  The Wolverines sustained their first loss, and a crucial question loomed: can Denard Robinson maintain his Vickian level of play against the nation’s better teams?

The answer, in short, is no.

It’s not as much a shortcoming for Robinson as a testament to the strength of Michigan’s upcoming schedule.  They play the best scoring defense in the nation – and more importantly, the second-best run-stopping unit in the land – when they host Iowa this Saturday.  Robinson is used to running for about 165 yards a game.  The Iowa defense is used to giving up less than half of that.

Sure, it’s a different approach stopping the overall run game versus stopping a QB with legs but the Hawkeyes have seen it before.  Last year, they stifled run and gun specialist Terrelle Pryor, holding him to only 122 all-purpose yards and no touchdowns.  It was one of only two games in which Pryor didn’t score, the other coming in a Buckeye’s loss to USC.

So will the Iowa defense be ready for Denard Robinson?  You can bet on it.

From that point on, it doesn’t get much easier.  The maize and blue face tough match-ups on the road against Penn State and Purdue.  Home games against Illinois and Wisconsin are winnable, but both present strong defensive challenges for a young quarterback testing uncharted Big Ten waters.

They cap their season with the usual – a rivalry battle with #1 Ohio State.  This game should be a blast, with two current Heisman hopefuls duking it out on the ground and through the air.  The difference here?  Ohio State’s Pryor has a stellar defense behind him…Denard has anything but.

While Robinson finds himself in the Heisman conversation today, will he be there in a month?  Two Big Ten games have shown us that Robinson can be great – or awful – against top-notch competition.  My gut is that he’s primed for a fall from maize and blue grace, and it begins this Saturday at the Big House.  The place should be rocking (Homecoming, national TV audience), but before the day is done, expect a reality check for the man they call Shoelace.

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