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An Ode to Denard

November 16, 2012

Tomorrow afternoon, Denard Robinson will run out the tunnel at Michigan Stadium for the final time.  Whether or not he plays is to be determined.  And from what I understand, even if he does play, it won’t be for meaningful snaps – which is a shame, because perhaps more than any other player, Denard Robinson deserves the chance to finish his Michigan career on a high note. 

For the last 3.5 years we’ve heard a lot about what Denard Robinson isn’t.  He isn’t a real quarterback, he isn’t a pocket passer, he doesn’t have the right feel of when to run it and when to gun it, he’s not smart enough to play quarterback, he chokes against good defenses, and he’s never won a championship.

I don’t care if any of those are true, because in my opinion they miss the point.  In my opinion, Denard Robinson is an incredibly important figure in Michigan football history for a variety of reasons.  Let’s start with his list of accomplishments:

  • 10,425 total yards in his career at Michigan (#1 All Time at Michigan)
  • 90 total touchdowns (#1 All Time at Michigan)
  • 6195 Yards Passing (4th All Time at Michigan and within striking distance of Elvis Grbac at #3)
  • 49 Passing Touchdowns (4th All Time at Michigan)
  • 41 Rushing Touchdowns (4th All Time at Michigan)
  • 4,129 Yards Rushing (5th All Time at Michigan for all rushers)
    • Likely would’ve ended up #2 if he had stayed healthy
    • 1st All Time for Big Ten QBs
    • 351 yards short of all time NCAA record for QBs
  • First player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a season
  • NCAA Record holder for rushing yards in a season by a QB
  • Owns 10 of the Top 11 Offensive Yardage In a Game Records at Michigan, including all of the Top 8
  • 23-11 record as a starter that includes 4-4 record against rivals of Notre Dame, MSU and Ohio State
  • 1 of 7 Michigan Quarterbacks to lead a team to a BCS Bowl Win (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta) in the last 42 years

At Michigan, the mantra is The Team, The Team, The Team.  So some people will dismiss Denard’s accomplishments because they didn’t accompany a Big Ten Title or a Rose Bowl win.  But it’s important to remember where we came from.  Michigan went 3-9 Denard’s senior year of high school and 5-7 his freshman year.  In his sophomore year they went 7-6 with Denard at the helm, most because of the atrocious defense.  His offense was a juggernaut.  And in his junior year, they went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.  And but for a freakish nerve injury sustained early this year, I’m confident that we would have prevailed in Lincoln against Nebraska and would have the inside track for a trip to the Big Ten title game. 

Here’s something else we should all remember about Denard.  When Michigan went 3-9 and 5-7 in back to back years, it was Denard’s electric play and personality that kept Michigan relevant in the national media.  His PlayStation stats and highlight reel runs that we’re replayed on SportsCenter kept Michigan a part of the national college football conversation.  As it turns out, he also had a million dollar smile and the personality to match.  When Lebron James and the President of the United States are taking notice, that’s special.  It’s even more special when that same player wants nothing more than to jump around in the Maize Rage at a Michigan basketball game.  At the bare minimum, Denard gave Michigan fans a reason to puff their chests out.  He also helped with recruiting and national buzz for Michigan that leads to things like at-large bids to the Sugar Bowl.  But most importantly, he was and continues to be a fantastic representative of Michigan football and the University of Michigan in general.   

And even if all of that wasn’t enough for you, perhaps some of these videos will jog your memory as to what makes Denard so special…

His First Snap at QB at Michigan as a True Freshman

The Longest Run in the History of Notre Dame Stadium 

Toying with Bowling Green… 

….and Indiana….

….and Air Force 

Beating up on UConn to start the 2010 season

The Incredible Notre Dame Comeback

Finally Slaying the Buckeyes

Denard Robinson may not be a perfect quarterback, or even a perfect football player.  But he was the right quarterback at the right time for Michigan.  He’ll go down as one of my favorites of all time and I hope the rest of the Michigan fanbase recognizes what he has done for this program during his time in Ann Arbor. 

As for Saturday’s game….

When a Kirk Ferentz team comes to town you usually expect them to run the ball well, play good defense, and make enough plays in the passing game to frustrate you.  This Iowa team is designed with that same blueprint in mind, but somewhere along the way the architect messed things up.   Ever since a surprising overtime win against MSU in East Lansing, the wheels have come off for the Hawkeyes as they’ve lost 4 straight.  Most recently they lost a home game to equally inept Purdue to end the Boilermakers 5 game losing streak. 

Unlike Northwestern or Nebraska in recent weeks, the Hawkeyes offensive weapons are neither mobile nor deceptive.  They will line up and run at you and force you to stop it.  The good news is, we’re more than capable of doing that.  The passing attack is led by James Vandenberg, a prototypical Iowa QB with a slightly above average arm and very little mobility.  His best game this year was a 249 yard day against Indiana – and Iowa lost.  On the ground, Mark Weisman, a lumbering running back leads the way.  Weisman started the spring as the 2nd team fullback but after a series of departures and injuries has become the starting running back by default.  It’s no surprise that Iowa ranks 106th in Total Offense and 102nd in Scoring Offense. 

Defensively the Hawkeyes are solid but not spectacular. They are tied for 51st in Total Defense and 29th in Scoring Defense, giving up just 22 points per game.  Only Penn State has scored more than 30 in the last 4 weeks, but those other three teams all scored 24+ points.  In short Iowa doesn’t have a shutdown defense capable of winning games on their own. 

The truth is, I think Michigan could win this game with an injured Denard playing quarterback.  Barring turnovers or special teams mishaps, Michigan should hold the Hawkeyes under 14 points.  Offensively things seem to be coming together under Devin Gardner.  I’d like to see Michigan establish the running game more this week and hopefully use the 2nd half to work out some kinks before heading to Columbus next week. 

Yes I know it’s dangerous to start looking ahead, but in the case of Iowa, I think it’s okay. 

Michigan 34

Iowa 10 

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