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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Defense's best friend

By Chantel Jennings
WolverineNation

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Maybe it's about time that senior quarterback Denard Robinson be nominated as Michigan's defensive player of the week. After all, the Wolverines' mantra is that their best defense is when their offense is on the field. With what Robinson does when he is on the field, that honor almost seems overdue.

"I love seeing him play well, because first of all, it keeps the defense off the field, which isn't too bad," safety Jordan Kovacs said. "I'm proud of him for it. I think he handled himself well over the last couple weeks."

Robinson's productivity -- 235 yards on the ground, 105 yards in the air -- helped keep Michigan's defense off the field for most of the game and propelled the Wolverines to a 44-13 win over Purdue in their conference opener.

Denard Robinson
Denard Robinson picked up 38 of his 235 rushing yards on this first-half run at Purdue.
It was Robinson's first statement game of the season. He didn't so obviously put his team on his back the way he had, scoring four touchdowns or accounting for 500 yards of offense. But he was there, crucial in nearly every part of the game for the Wolverines.

This season, Robinson has had his moments here and there when he electrifies crowds and terrifies coaches, but he hadn't put together a complete game in 2012. But against Purdue, he looked like complete player and it was a statement to the rest of the Big Ten. Yes, Michigan will probably run a lot. But no, it's not easy to stop Robinson, and by extension, Michigan.

And with that, the Wolverines came out charging, calling run play after run play, going to the strengths of the man they call "Shoelace."

Robinson rushed the ball 24 times and attempted 16 passes. And while he was just 8-of-16 passing, he didn't throw an interception (something he had yet to accomplish this season) and he looked more mature as he went through his checkdowns, making sound decisions and even smartly throwing away one pass.

It was a 180-degree turn from the Robinson who appeared in South Bend, Ind., two weeks ago. That Robinson turned the ball over five times, didn't take control of the offense, didn't get the ball to the receivers, didn't do much for his team. But following that loss -- what he later described as the most disappointed in himself he had ever been -- he told media, fans and his team that he would be a more accountable player as the Wolverines started conference play.

Accountable? Perhaps that was a bit of an understatement on Saturday.

"This is something I want to be, I want to be accountable for the team," Robinson said. "When I stepped out there today I said, 'I want to be accountable. I want to do whatever it takes to win for Michigan.' That's what I did."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke praised his quarterback for that accountability and both Robinson's decision-making and his moving north and south, rather than east and west.

"I'm sure it was good for his confidence. It's good for all of us to some degree," Hoke said. "When you look at it, at the end of the day, he looked real comfortable. He was ready to play the game and it showed."

And Robinson continued to break more records. His 235 rushing yards (a Big Ten-best for him) moved him past Antwaan Randle El to become the Big Ten's leading career rusher for a quarterback.

"That means something," Robinson said. "But to be honest with you, our goal is to win the Big Ten and so whatever it takes to win the Big Ten, that's what we have to do."

And if Michigan wants to win the Big Ten, this Robinson -- this comfortable, collected, offense-as-defense version of Robinson -- has to show up every Saturday as the Wolverines march through the conference schedule. And with a player like Robinson, it's possible. After all, how many players could be both the most valuable offensive and defensive players on the team?

"Your offense is your best defense," Kovacs said. "If they're out on the field, then I don't think [the opponents] can gain any yards."