Notre Dame gears up to keep Michigan QB from going wild again
By Neil Hayes firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2011 12:28AM
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) looks to get around Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, in South Bend, Ind. Michigan won 28-24. (AP Photo/The Michigan Daily, Sam Wolson) ** MANDATORY CREDIT NO SALES **
Updated: November 9, 2011 2:58PM
If Denard Robinson embarrasses Brian Kelly’s team for the second consecutive year, it won’t be because the Irish didn’t see him coming. Michigan’s quarterback might be only 6-foot, 195 pounds, but he became Paul Bunyan in the eyes of the Irish after shredding Notre Dame for 502 total yards last season in an epic performance.
Even defensive coordinator Bob Diaco admits his defense will have to accomplish the impossible when Michigan hosts Notre Dame on Saturday in the first night game ever at Michigan Stadium.
“You need to be perfect,” the Notre Dame assistant said. “Any little crease and it’s over. He’s gone. It’s not like somebody hits a crease and rattles for eight, 10 yards and you get him on the ground. This guy hits a crease and he can punch a hole in the top of the defense like that [snapping fingers]. Watching him live and really having a chance to see it, that’s the job.
“At the same time, everybody that follows football, especially defensive football, understands there’s no perfect game.”
Robinson’s performance is more difficult for Notre Dame players and coaches to forget because it came at their expense. He rushed for 258 yards and passed for 244 to break a Michigan school record with 502 yards in a game. He scored the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left after breaking an 87-yard run, which was the longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
The Irish defense is better than it was then. The unit held opponents to fewer than 10 points per game in the final four games last season. It turned in a winning effort in a season-opening loss to South Florida last week only to watch the offense commit five turnovers, including a Jonas Gray fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
The defense has proven a lot. But it has yet to prove it can contain Robinson.
“As a defense, we’re excited to get another crack at him because last year we obviously gave up a lot of yards to him throwing and passing,” senior safety Harrison Smith said. “Going against him again is kind of a test for us and something that we’re excited about.
First-year coach Brady Hoke’s pro-style offense isn’t as reliant on Robinson as Rich Rodriguez’s spread was last season, although that could change. Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges have told Robinson to run their offense, not be the offense.
Robinson had eight carries for 48 yards while completing 9 of 13 passes for 98 yards in a storm-shortened win over Western Michigan last week.
“[He] almost gives you the feeling that you’re playing with 12,” Diaco said. “It’s a problem.”