Michigan Football: Better Denard Robinson Gameplan Puts Team Back on Right Track

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterSeptember 8, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 08:  Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a third quarter touchdown while playing the Air Force Falcons at Michigan Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Well, Michigan, you messed with the service academy bull, and Air Force certainly brought its fair share of the horns in Week 2. The Falcons fought valiantly but never led in the 31-25 victory, and while the competitive nature of the game was a little higher than expected, Michigan fans should be very happy about what they saw from Denard Robinson.

First, his ending stat line: 14-of-25 passing, 208 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. On the ground, 20 rushes, 218 yards, 2 more TDs. That's all four of Michigan's touchdowns.

Yes, that's a vintage Denard Robinson game: over 200 yards both rushing and passing, the third such game of his career. It was also the first time he had accomplished that feat since Week 5 of 2010, and that's what Michigan fans should be buoyed by: This looked like 2010 Denard Robinson.

First of all, we saw the Denard Robinson who rips off big runs with impunity and makes spectacular plays. He ripped through the Air Force defense on Michigan's second play of the first half on a 79-yard touchdown, then he followed it up with a 58-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half.

That second run may have even been more impressive, since he lost his shoe during the early stages of the play.

It figures that Shoelace is torching people with one shoe on.

But, those were just two rushes—two very good rushes, to be technical about it—and although they weren't nearly as earth-shaking, the other 18 rushes should certainly be encouraging because they showed that Michigan OC Al Borges is willing to get away from the pro offense plan and get back to a more productive system of offense: ALL DENARD EVERYTHING.

Granted, it seemed as if Borges' choice was made for him by the fact that Fitz Toussaint went for seven yards on eight carries in his 2012 debut, but Michigan has other running backs; they just weren't used.

Instead, Borges correctly played the numbers game and saw that if Robinson kept the ball, he'd have 10 blockers on 11 defenders—and you could scheme a defender or two out of the play correctly. That would turn into nine blockers on 11 defenders if all Robinson did was hand off ineffectually, and against an aggressive defense like Air Force's, that extra man would help immensely.

We also saw more movement from Robinson on the passing downs, which changed the angles defensive backs had to play and put immense pressure on the front seven as their target was suddenly much more mobile than if he had just been standing still—as was often the case against Alabama.

Now, yes, this was Air Force's defense and not Alabama's. And when the Falcons played tough competition in 2011, they gave up buckets of yardage (especially on the ground) and points.

But it's not like it's a worse defense that anyone in the Big Ten has (hello, Minnesota and Northwestern), and Michigan needed to show that, at the very least, it could still punish bad defenses. That's what we saw here, and the fact that it accomplished that the same way it did under Rich Rodriguez should lead fans to think that this offense could be as Denard Robinson-centric as it was at its peak.