Reverse trend in South Bend

Embarrassd QB Robinson apologizes to fans after turnover-plagued defeat

Updated: September 23, 2012, 1:32 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Denard Robinson put his head down, and one of the fastest men in college football started a slow jog past celebrating Notre Dame players in a stadium of fans who spent two seasons shaking their head at his late-game heroics.

The man in the white No. 16 jersey jogged under the goalposts by himself, up the tunnel in the north end of the stadium after he lost to Notre Dame for the first time, 13-6, in what he called "the worst game of my career."

Four interceptions, five total turnovers and a game in which he forced passes and overall regressed as a quarterback would do that. So much so he apologized afterward. To everyone.

"I want to say sorry to everybody who watched football, watched Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football," Robinson said in a hallway underneath the Notre Dame Stadium stands. "I want to say sorry and it won't happen no more. I am going to be accountable for the rest of the season. I'll tell you that much."

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesIn Michigan's two marquee games of the nonconference season against Alabama and Notre Dame, Denard Robinson threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions.
He didn't tell his teammates that. Didn't tell his coaches that. Didn't say much to his team after his performance. He plans to tell them Sunday.

Accountability has been a big phrase for Robinson recently. He had planned to be more accountable to everyone entering the season with improved accuracy and strong leadership and better decision-making.

The leadership is still unquestioned. The rest is highly questionable. Robinson threw two of his interceptions almost directly at Notre Dame defenders, part of a stretch when the Wolverines had five consecutive passes intercepted, four from Robinson and one on a halfback pass from Vincent Smith.

On the same field where he had the best game of his career -- setting the Michigan record for single-game all-purpose yards with 502 and even inadvertently shrugging off a Notre Dame defender with a stiff-arm and captured in a Heisman pose in 2010 -- he now also had his worst.

"Most disappointed I've been in I don't know how long," Robinson said. "The 22 years I've been living, this is the most disappointed I've been in myself."

Robinson, though, is still the heart of this Michigan team. As Robinson goes, so will the Wolverines this season, for good and bad. Michigan coach Brady Hoke never considered pulling him, even after he threw an interception right into the No. 5 of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, the third time he's thrown an interception this season right in the numbers of a defender.

Hoke didn't consider pulling him after the third interception, either, which went right to two Notre Dame defenders before being pulled down by Te'o, who simply saw "the ball" on both interceptions.

"The beastliness of the defense just imposing on Denard and his mentality," Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta said. "Being a home game and everything like that helped, too."

But this was a spot against a team that Robinson had come up so clutch against before, engineering three potential winning drives over the final two minutes in the past two seasons. And no matter how bad he played, he still had a shot and drove the Wolverines down the field again.

Instead of a touchdown, he scrambled and saw nowhere to run. When a Notre Dame defender latched on to him, he didn't throw a perfect strike to Junior Hemingway -- he went to the ground instead. Then instead of hitting No. 12 -- then Roy Roundtree -- in the end zone, he overthrew Devin Gardner.

In a cruel twist, Robinson set two Michigan records Saturday showing his dichotomy. He passed Chad Henne to become Michigan's all-time yards leader with 9,438 after rushing for 90 yards and throwing for 138.

He also passed Henne to become the Wolverines' all-time interceptions leader with 38.

"The guy has done a pretty doggone good job being a quarterback at Michigan and made some good throws in the first half," Hoke said. "Just better decision-making and move forward. What are you going to do, sit there and talk about each one of them? You've got to move forward."

Moving forward will be critical for Robinson now. Michigan is 2-2 but in many ways has a completely fresh outlook in Big Ten play. But it can't afford for Robinson to play the way he did Saturday.

"This was the worst game of my career," Robinson said. "And I'm trying to move forward."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter