Stats & Info: Tate Forcier

Martinez and Robinson look for separation

August, 22, 2011

Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez was named the 2010 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

The Big Ten Legends Division features two of the nation’s most electrifying quarterbacks in the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Taylor Martinez and the Michigan Wolverines' Denard Robinson. The two were recently named to the 2011 Maxwell Award Watch List. The award is given out each season to college football’s most outstanding player. Being named to the same list is just another similarity in two careers that seem to run parallel.

Their similarities start with the way they play football. Martinez and Robinson can beat defenses with both their feet and their arms. Last season, they were two of five players in FBS to pass for 1,500+ yards and rush for 900+ yards. When they get into the open field, both exhibit a top gear that few players can match. Among quarterbacks no one had more rushes of 20+ yards than Robinson (16) and Martinez (15) last season.

Their careers as starting quarterbacks began in an eerily similarly way. After sitting behind fellow freshmen Tate Forcier in 2009, Robinson was named the starter just before the kickoff of his sophomore season. He did not wait long to make national headlines. He ran for 258 yards and passed for 244 in Week 2 against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Then three games later, he duplicated the feat against the Indiana Hoosiers, becoming the first player in FBS history to pass for 200+ yards and rush for 200+ yards in a game twice during the regular season.

Martinez faced similar circumstances. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini publicly gave him the nod over incumbent Zac Lee 30 minutes before the season opener. Just like Robinson, Martinez burst onto the national landscape. In his first seven collegiate games, he ran for 12 touchdowns and threw for nine more. His 124.3 rushing yards per game during that stretch was ninth best in the FBS. Only Robinson and Cam Newton averaged more among quarterbacks. After nine weeks of the season, Martinez led the FBS with 14 rushes of 20+ yards. Seven of these runs went for touchdowns, also tops in the FBS.

Both players’ hot starts would temper off. Martinez suffered a lower-leg injury against the Missouri Tigers on October 30. He was forced to miss two games, and rushed for just 95 yards combined in his final five games. The Cornhuskers finished 2-3 in Martinez’s final five starts after starting the year 7-1. Michigan also struggled down the stretch, finishing 2-6 after a 5-0 start. Robinson saw his touchdown to interception ratio go from 7-1 in the first five games to 11-10 over the last eight.

This season brings yet another similarity. Robinson and Martinez will have to adjust to new play callers. Michigan and Nebraska are both replacing their offensive coordinators. Michigan hired Al Borges, who was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2004-07 and most recently at San Diego State Aztecs under current Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Nebraska promoted Tim Beck, its running backs coach for the last three seasons, to offensive coordinator.

Finally, Martinez (T-Magic) and Robinson (Shoelace) have two of the most recognizable nicknames in college football.

As their careers continue to run a similar course, we might have to wait until their meeting on November 19 in Ann Arbor to finally see separation and a possible leading candidate for the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Let's take a look at some of the notes from Saturday's early action:

No. 21 Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21
Michigan Wolverines' QB Denard Robinson compiled 188 yards of total offense in the first quarter before leaving the game with an unspecified injury to his left knee. He was replaced, first by Devin Gardner (7-10, 85 yards, TD) and then by Tate Forcier (12-12, 110 yards, TD).

• Robinson ran for 128 yards on five carries. Over the last five seasons, only West Virginia Mountaineers' running back Noel Devine has run for more yards on five or fewer carries among FBS players. Devine ran for 136 yards on five carries against the Maryland Terrapins in 2007.

• Forcier becomes only the third FBS player since 2004 to complete all of his passes with a minimum of 10 attempts. The last was Fresno State's Ryan Colburn (14-14 vs Idaho) last season.

• The Wolverines' quarterbacks combined to complete 88.5 percent of their passes, the second-highest number in school history, minimum 10 attempts.

• The 65 points are the most Michigan has scored since hanging 69 on Illinois in 1986.

No. 11 Wisconsin 70, Austin Peay 3
• The Wisconsin Badgers score a school-record 70 points and win by a school-record 67-point margin.

• Running back John Clay rushed for 118 yards, passing Rufus Ferguson for ninth place on the school's career rushing list. He also increased his career yards per carry average to 5.59, and is now second in school history behind Ron Dayne (5.84).

• The Badgers gained over 600 yards in total offense (618) for the first time since gaining 601 at Indiana in 2008.

• The Badgers have now won 28 straight regular season games against non-conference opponents, which is tied for the second-longest active streak in the country with USC. The Badgers are 15-0 in non-conference home games under head coach Bret Bielema and have outscored their opponents 562-235 in those games.

No. 18 Iowa 45, Ball State 0
• The Iowa Hawkeyes bounce back from last week's loss at the Arizona Wildcats and improve to 15-2 at home since the start of the 2008 season.

Adam Robinson ran for two TD after being held to just five yds and zero TD by Arizona. It's his third career multi-TD game. He topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in his career.

• The Hawkeyes had been 0-3 over the previous three seasons in the game after their first loss.

• The Ball State Cardinals are now 1-21 all-time against the Big Ten.

No. 25 Michigan State 45, Northern Colorado 7
Kirk Cousins went 16-20 for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Michigan State Spartans improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007.

• This is the first win for interim head coach Don Treadwell, who stepped in after Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack last weekend.

• Michigan State ran for 200 yards for the fourth straight game. They had just one 200-yard rush game last season.

• Michigan State has played just two FCS schools in its history. They have won both games by a combined score of 89-10 (beat Montana State 44-3 last season).

• Northern Colorado is 0-3 all-time against Big Ten teams.
It’s just three days before Rich Rodriguez kicks off his third season at Michigan and he still hasn’t said which speedy sophomore will start under center Saturday against Connecticut. Tate Forcier made plays with both his arm and legs for the Wolverines in 2009, but he struggled when defenses were able to keep him in the pocket. In 11 games against FBS opponents last year, Forcier completed more than half of his passes of 15 or more yards when outside the tackles. When Forcier threw the deep ball from inside the pocket, he hit on just under 28 percent of his throws.

While Forcier struggled to work the ball down the field from inside the pocket, Denard Robinson had trouble with nearly every type of throw in 2009. As a freshman, Robinson attempted just 27 passes against FBS competition, completing 11 for 103 yards with four interceptions. When you consider that more than half of Robinson’s completions came on passes within five yards of the line of scrimmage, it’s clear that he’ll need to be more effective on deep and intermediate passes as a sophomore if he’s going to unseat Forcier as the team’s primary signal caller.

With just eight wins in his first two seasons with the Wolverines, the pressure on Rodriguez is mounting. 96 FBS teams have won more games than Michigan since 2008 and another losing campaign would give the maize and blue three straight losing seasons for the first time in school history and could mean the end of Rodriguez’s tenure in Ann Arbor. As he debates which quarterback he’ll rely on to right the ship, he’s surely not comforted by the fact that with Steven Threet recently being named the starter at Arizona State, two QBs on the Wolverines roster when Rodriguez took the reins in December 2007 have now locked down starting jobs at big-time programs (in addition to Threet, Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett was a freshman at Michigan in 2007).