Michigan freshmen QBs fit the script
September, 5, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Gregory Shamus/Getty Images|
|Tate Forcier ran Michigan's offense just the way Rich Rodriguez wanted it.|
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The most exciting play of a banner day for Michigan's offense started with a fumbled snap and could have ended in disaster.
Last year, it most certainly would have.
Instead, freshman quarterback Denard Robinson picked up the ball, paused to assess his options, made several Western Michigan defenders look stupid and then showcased his track-star speed on a 43-yard touchdown. On pure instincts and improvisation, with a heavy dose of athleticism, Robinson gave the Wolverines a 13-0 lead.
Was Robinson supposed to hand off the ball?
"Maybe," head coach Rich Rodriguez said with a devilish grin.
Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith was a little more forthcoming.
"It was supposed to be a reverse," Smith said.
The only thing that reversed was the course of the Michigan offense, which set team records for futility and finished last in the Big Ten in 2008. Robinson and fellow freshman quarterback Tate Forcier showed what Rodriguez's offense is supposed to look like, leading Michigan to 31 first-half points in a 31-7 victory against Western Michigan.
After a season of trying to make Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan run a system incongruous to their abilities, Rodriguez let the freshmen he recruited go to work, and the results were impressive.
"They're recruited for this system," Smith said of Forcier and Robinson. "Not that the other guys can't do it. It's just that you've got to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. These guys are better suited than what we had as a unit last year."
Forcier did the lion's share of the work, completing 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He committed no turnovers, made few major miscues, felt no nerves and set the tone on Michigan's first possession.
On first down from the Broncos' 28-yard line, Forcier evaded the rush, directed wide receiver Junior Hemingway to head for the end zone and lofted a perfect pass to the sophomore for the game's first touchdown.
"I saw the coverage and I saw Junior had 1-on-1," Forcier said. "I was getting pressure, so I just stepped up and let Junior make a play. Just let athletes be athletes."
Rodriguez sprinkled in Robinson to change the pace and likely will give "Shoelace" a bigger role with time. After watching a train wreck most of last year, Rodriguez sensed early that this offense would be different.
"I knew we were playing better because the first 12 plays were right on script," he said. "Once we stay on script ... it gets us in rhythm."