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Robinson faces Irish one last time

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, September 20, 2012

If Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson put together a resume against Notre Dame, it would look something like this: longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history, two straight comeback wins with under 30 seconds remaining, eight touchdowns and 944 total yards – all in just two games.

“He’s a superior football player,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “He’s a difference maker.”

Robinson made the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium a night to forget for the Irish last season. The Deerfield Beach, Fla., native threw for 338 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Wolverines’ 35-31 victory on Sept. 10, 2011. Two of those passing touchdowns came within the last two minutes of the game, including the game-winner on a 16-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left.

Behind Robinson, the Wolverines put up 28 points in the fourth quarter, which they entered facing a 24-7 deficit. With 23 seconds left in the game, Michigan was stuck at its own 20-yard line trailing by three before Robison’s heroics took center stage.

“Well, I thought we did a pretty good job, really, for three quarters [last year],” Kelly said. “You know, I think if there’s a couple plays we’d like to have back in the passing game maybe; but we liked our plan. [Now] we think that we are physically a better football team than we were the previous couple years.”
It is Robinson’s ability to make a big play down the field that
Kelly said the Irish will focus on limiting.

“We have to find a way to limit big chunk plays, just like we have the first few weeks,” Kelly said. “It’s about our defense not giving up those big chunk plays. We gave them up in the running game in year one and we gave them up in the passing game in year two. We have to eliminate and control those big plays that are out there. If we do that, we feel pretty good.”

In year one against Notre Dame, Robinson torched the Irish for 502 total yards and three touchdowns in a 28-24 win at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 11, 2010. A major chunk of his 258 rushing yards came on one carry, an 87-yard touchdown that set the record for the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history. His other rushing touchdown came with 27 seconds left
in the fourth quarter to send the Wolverines home with the victory. Despite Robinson’s success against Notre Dame, Irish senior safety Zeke Motta said he does not change much when trying to prepare for a dynamic quarterback.

“There’s not much that we do differently,” Motta said. “I’m going to keep my preparation the same. I’m going to focus on my fundamentals.”

Robinson does not come without his weaknesses, however. No. 1 Alabama’s defense held Robinson to 27 rushing yards and 200 passing yards with two interceptions in the 41-14 Alabama win Sept. 1. The Crimson Tide (3-0) unveiled a possible formula for stopping Robinson, based on establishing an early lead and containing the quarterback within the pocket.

“I think it was attributed to getting up on them,” Kelly said. “[Alabama] got some scores on them. [Michigan] got them behind the chains a few times. And then, you know, they had some opportunistic turnovers.”

Kelly said the much-improved Irish defense cannot risk focusing too much on either Robinson’s running or passing, or the man nicknamed “Shoelace” could come away undefeated against Notre Dame.

“It’s a difficult proposition, because you can’t sell out on either [rushing or passing],” Kelly said. “You have to be balanced.
You have to be able to manage it and you’ve got to keep him from making big plays. So there isn’t an easy answer to that. He’s a superior football player. He’s not a great player; he’s the best player on the field.”

Contact Andrew Gastelum at