October 6, 2012

Robinson explodes for career day, at Toussaint's expense

Denard Robinson was one of the last Wolverines to emerge from the visiting locker room at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday, and for good reason - he was having too much fun laughing and joking with his teammates, relishing a career-rushing performance that saw him climb through the Big Ten and Michigan record books.

When he finally did address the media throng, Robinson couldn't wipe the smile off his face. He was in a celebratory mood and not even a question about his lone turnover - a second-quarter fumble that led to Purdue's only touchdown - could dampen his spirits.

Robinson produced the fifth 200-yard rushing game of his career, moving him into a tie with Mike Hart (2004-07) for first place, his ninth effort of 150 yards or more (second all time) and his 17th game of at least 100 yards (fifth), with 235 yards on 24 carries.

He also took over the top spot in the Big Ten record books for career rushing by a quarterback with 3,905, surpassing Indiana's Antwaan Randel El (3,895 from 1998-2001).
Adding to his resume even more, Robinson produced the top individual tally of his career in Big Ten competition, eclipsing the 217 yards he rushed for against Indiana in 2010 (his all-time best is 258 yards at Notre Dame in 2010).

"The offensive line blocked well," said the always-humble Robinson. "God gave me the gift to run the ball well and the offensive line did a great job up front. That's how we got going, and the receivers down field and the running backs ... I couldn't do it by myself."

Robinson broke off runs of 38, 46 and 59 yards, shredding a Purdue defense that had, until Saturday, found ways in two previous meetings to bottle up the dangerous runner. But his success came at the expense of redshirt junior tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint, who had rushed for 170 yards against the Gold and Black in 2011, and who would become the Boilermakers' focal point on Saturday.

"I had two big runs off pull reads; they went for Fitz and he freed me," Robinson said. "They kind of keyed on him more because last year he had a breakout game, and they upped the ante on him."

Toussaint would finish with only 19 yards on 17 carries, a paltry 1.1 yards per rush, as 12 of his 17 runs went for one yard, no yards or negative yards.

Still, Robinson scoffed at the notion Toussaint did not play well.

"He got two touchdowns and if that's not a good day I don't know what is," Robinson said, with a big grin.

Head coach Brady Hoke, though, looking at the bottom line - Michigan's ground attack, minus its quarterback, totaled just 69 yards on 30 attempts (2.3-yard average) - wasn't as jubilant as Robinson.

"Am I happy? No, because I still think your point of attack runs ... I thought at the end, when [sophomore] Thomas Rawls came in and we got into a little bit of conventional offense under center and those things, I thought we ran the ball pretty downhill, but I think we're still not getting vertical enough," Hoke said.

Robinson had no problems getting north and south, almost single-handedly moving the football for the Wolverines as he picked up nine of Michigan's 12 rushing first downs. He would account for 340 of U-M's 409 yards (83.1 percent), throwing for 105 yards also.

"I'm sure this was good for his confidence," Hoke said. "When you look at it, at the end of the day he looked very comfortable, he was very ready to play the game and it showed."

After throwing four interceptions, and turning the ball over five times, in a 13-6 loss at Notre Dame, Robinson promised he would be accountable to his team. On Saturday, he delivered yet again.

"When I stepped out there today I told them I'd be accountable and do whatever it takes to win for Michigan, and that's what I did," he said.

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