Sunday, October 11, 2009
Rodriguez on Robinson: 'That spark was still lit'
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Posted ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Coach Rich Rodriguez inserted Denard Robinson into the lineup to provide a spark but Robinson could not carry Michigan in the end.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When a team official handed Rich Rodriguez a box score after Michigan's 30-28 loss to Iowa, the Wolverines head coach angrily flung the sheet of paper over his shoulder.
"I can tell you why we lost," Rodriguez barked.
He could point to five turnovers, woeful special teams play or two defensive breakdowns that led to long Iowa touchdown passes. But possibly the most glaring reason, at least for anyone who has watched Michigan play this year, was Rodriguez's decision to stick with quarterback Denard Robinson over Tate Forcier in the final minutes.
Granted, Robinson had boosted Michigan by leading an 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive minutes earlier. And Forcier had struggled throughout the night, completing just 8 of 19 passes with an interception and a fumble.
But Forcier has been Mr. Clutch for Michigan this year, leading game-winning touchdown drives against both Notre Dame and Indiana and a game-tying drive last week at Michigan State. Robinson, meanwhile, boasts tremendous running skills but seems ill-suited to lead the two-minute drill with no timeouts. He entered Saturday night having completed 4 of 11 passes for 57 yards with two interceptions.
"I put Denard in to get a spark, and we got a spark, and that spark was still lit," Rodriguez said. "We made a couple plays, we had moved the ball, he had got a first down or so. He just threw a pick at the end. As the head coach, I can do that."
And as the head coach, he can take the heat for sticking with Robinson, whose deep pass sailed right into the arms of Iowa safety Brett Greenwood. Rodriguez said Forcier wasn't 100 percent healthy during the game, but injuries didn't keep the freshman on the sideline.
Both Robinson and Forcier weren't made available to reporters after the game. Rodriguez disputed a report that he and Forcier had a heated exchange on the sideline before the final series.
"There were no words on the sidelines," the coach said. "Are we going to try to create something that's not there? We were coaching. Our guys are very, very coachable. ... Tate was right behind us on the last drive, rooting on, trying to help out Denard and all that. Tate made a few plays that he'd probably like to have back, but we made a change to get a little spark."
Given Forcier's reputation, Iowa safety Tyler Sash was suprised to see Robinson trotting out for the final drive.
"Forcier's really proven himself to be a magical guy," Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But Robinson didn't look too bad on that series prior. We were having a hard time with him. I don't question that one at all."