Commentary

Denard carries load against Nebraska

Junior QB looks sharp, healthy in accounting for 263 yards and four touchdowns

Updated: November 20, 2011, 3:03 AM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke didn't change much of anything in his offensive set in preparation for No. 16 Nebraska, but there was one player who seemed like a different guy.

In No. 18 Michigan's 45-17 win over Nebraska, quarterback Denard Robinson played one of his most complete games of the season.

The junior rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. He also completed 11 of 18 passes for 180 yards. His 263 total yards were his best effort since the victory over Northwestern on Oct. 8.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson had 16 carries in the first half alone against Nebraska.
"I think he's more confident," Hoke said. "One thing I can tell is he has taken ownership as a leader. And that's neat to see."

Hoke also noted that Robinson's midyear ailments are gone, which attributed to his production on the field.

Robinson seemed to have the kind of acceleration he had at the beginning of the season. When he saw a seam he zipped through it, and he didn't need much of an opening.

The Wolverines also made a concentrated effort to keep the ball in Robinson's hands. His 16 first-half carries were more than he'd had in any of the past three games. His 23 carries for the game were his second-most in a Big Ten game this season, topped only by the 25 he had against Northwestern.

Robinson was removed from the game with just over six minutes to play, but this time it wasn't because of a wrist or hand injury, it was because of the cushion he had provided the Wolverines.

The Cornhuskers held Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins to 86 passing yards while sacking him four times.

But Robinson, who has completed just 54 percent of his passes this season and has thrown 14 interceptions, looked patient in the pocket against the Cornhuskers. He didn't always make the best decisions, including on his interception, but plenty of times he dropped to pass, made it through a progression or two and then took off.

"A lot of people doubt his throwing because he can run so well," senior wide receiver Martavious Odoms said. "But when he needs to throw and make plays, he gets the job done."

Robinson completed a 38-yard touchdown pass behind double coverage to Odoms at the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter. That completion moved Robinson into a seventh-place tie with Tom Brady for most career touchdown passes (35) at the University of Michigan.

Michigan was perfect in the red zone (5-for-5). And Robinson displayed his ability to control the tempo of the game, which paced the Wolverines in their 41 minutes of possession.

"I thought he did a nice job managing our offense," Hoke said. "I think he took advantage of some creases that he saw in there and accelerated through them pretty well."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or or on Twitter @chanteljennings.

Chantel Jennings | email

Oregon/Pac-12 reporter