Michigan Football: Wolverines Win in Rout, but Warning Signs Remain for Robinson

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterSeptember 15, 2012

September 15, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) runs the ball at Massachusetts Minutemen defensive back Christian Birt (9) during the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

It was a laugher in Ann Arbor, just like everyone expected. Michigan 63, UMass 13, and it was barely that close. It wasn't a UMass game, it was a UMassacre. That's what very good teams do to very bad teams, and UMass is a very, very bad team.

But it would be foolish to say that Michigan is "back" or that whatever ills had plagued the Wolverines during the Alabama game had since dissipated. If only.

Michigan's usage of Denard Robinson was better, but it wasn't great, and it wasn't the type of usage you'd want to see from the coaches going forward. Too many of his throws were the downfield heaves out of the shotgun that, while certainly productive when they work, are low-percentage plays and can easily result in turnovers—especially with Robinson's "touch" on longer throws.

There was also the issue of the pick-six Robinson threw. He didn't have his feet set well and he didn't get nearly enough zip on the pass, and as a result cornerback Christian Birt took the interception 32 yards for the score—UMass' only touchdown of the afternoon. If Massachusetts can punish a throw like that, everyone can punish a throw like that.

On Robinson's second-biggest run of the game, a 24-yard scamper in the second quarter, he lost his shoe on a cut. It's the second week in a row that Robinson, whose nickname of "Shoelace" comes from his predilection for untied shoes, lost a shoe mid-run. It should also be the last time that happens. It's fun for stories and lore, but for crying out loud, Robinson's shoes need to stay on.

That all aside, it would be wildly incorrect to say Robinson was altogether bad this week—16-of-24 passing for 291 yards and three scores is good, and 10 rushes for 105 yards and another touchdown is good against anybody. It was a Denard Robinson-type of day, and that's what Michigan should want out of him.

It's just that what constitutes a "Denard Robinson day" hasn't really changed in two years, and if Robinson can't demonstrate a higher level of play than that even against a lousy opponent, it's probably not happening this year.

It seems relatively weird to start shoveling dirt on a player's Heisman candidacy in Week 3 after a 396-total-yard, four-touchdown performance like Robinson's. And yes, the fact that this performance seems routine is a testament to the fact that Robinson is such a dynamic, explosive player. He could still make a strong case as the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

It also seems as if Robinson is bumping up against a ceiling of performance, though, and that ceiling is well below the threshold of legitimate Heisman candidacy. 

If Robinson does this to Big Ten foes, though? Especially Big Ten foes not named, say, Northwestern? Maybe we can start talking about postseason accolades again. As it stands now, this was just vintage Robinson: productive, talented, breathtaking and flawed.