Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has tormented Notre Dame more than any player in the last two years.
The 6-foot, 197-pound senior set Michigan, Big Ten and Notre Dame records in a 28-24 win in 2010, breaking his team total-offense record with 502 yards; setting team records for total plays (68) and single-game road rushing (258 yards); setting the Big Ten quarterback rushing record; recording the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history (an 87-yard scoring run in the second quarter) and setting the single-game total offense record by a Notre Dame opponent.
Robinson was just as good last year when he rallied the Wolverines from a 24-7 halftime deficit to a 35-31 win in the first night game ever in Michigan Stadium. He accounted for 446 of the Wolverines’ offensive yards (338 passing, 108 rushing), threw four touchdown passes and ran in for another score. And most of that came in the fourth quarter.
Robinson threw for 202 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 1-yard run in the final quarter.
He’s a superior football player, coach Brian Kelly said. He’s not a great player; he’s the best player on the field.
Notre Dame will be in the best position in a decade when the No. 11 Irish (3-0) try to stop Robinson and a three-game losing streak to No. 18 Michigan (2-1) tonight in Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish have won their first three games for the first time since going 8-0 to start the 2002 season, and they have their highest ranking since also being No. 11 in Week 15 of the 2006 season.
Notre Dame players know that if any team can put the brakes on their fast start, it is Michigan with Robinson at quarterback.
We got to focus in; Michigan has had our number the last three years, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. I think this is a stepping stone for us, and it’s a great challenge ahead of us.
The Irish have been able to keep Robinson in check at times.
In 2010, Notre Dame kept Robinson and Michigan out of the end zone for nearly two quarters after an 87-yard touchdown pass put the Wolverines ahead with 1:51 to play in the first half. But he did seal the win by finishing a 12-play, 72-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds to play in that game.
Last year, Robinson had only 59 passing yards before hitting Junior Hemingway with a 77-yard pass late in the third quarter.
Robinson has hurt the Irish the most with big plays.
Robinson connected on passes for 45, 27, 21 and 64 yards in the fourth quarter of last year’s game, and in 2010, he completed two 31-yard passes and had seven runs of 11 yards or more.
He’s going to make some plays, but limiting his big plays is what we are focused on, safety Zeke Motta said. He’s probably going to be the best mobile quarterback we’re going to face. We are going to have to limit his big plays that he can make, that he’s shown the ability to make.