Published October 16, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has racked up 10,000-plus yards and 90 touchdowns in his spectacular career.
Michigan State, though, has made the dual-threat quarterback look very ordinary in the rivalry, handing him lopsided losses in his two starts.
Robinson and the 23rd-ranked Wolverines (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) will have chance to end a four-game skid against the Spartans (4-3, 1-2) Saturday at the Big House.
Robinson insisted the matchup doesn't mean any more than any other game that helps the team reach its goal of a Big Ten championship.
"Every game should be personal," he said Monday.
Robinson did acknowledge that losing three straight times to the Spartans, including when he was a freshman serving as Tate Forcier's backup, has bothered him.
"It's a feeling that you can't get over, nobody likes losing," he said.
In last year's two-TD loss that Robinson didn't finish, he was 9 of 23 for 123 yards with a TD and an interception and four sacks led to him being held to an average of 2.3 yards on 18 rushing attempts for a total of 42 yards. He threw a pass that pulled Michigan within a TD with 9:49 left and had an interception returned for a touchdown that sealed the loss with 4:31 to go.
Soon after, Robinson was knocked out of the game and the trainers wouldn't clear him to return.
"Any time you put fear in a quarterback's eyes, it's a good thing," former Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy said after last year's game. "You could see him getting fidgety."
Robinson look rattled by the rough play, which included defensive end William Gholston twisting his face mask after his teammates had already tackled him to the ground. The Big Ten suspended Gholston for throwing a punch at a Michigan lineman on another play.
In Robinson's first start of the series, his breakout season was stunted by Michigan State in 34-17 win. He entered that game two years ago with 1,000-plus yards passing, seven touchdowns and one interception along with 900-plus yards rushing — 9.2 yards per carry — and eight TDs. The Spartans shut him down, intercepting three of his passes and holding him to a relatively modest 86 yards rushing and a score on 21 carries for then-coach Rich Rodriguez.
Entering his second game as Michigan's head coach against Michigan State, Brady Hoke said he and his staff will study what the Spartans have done to slow down Robinson.
"You always like to see what people have done and see if it's worked," Hoke said. "If it's worked, then you want to find some ways to maybe attack it a little bit differently."
Robinson doesn't necessarily agree.
"I think you have to focus on what they're doing this year — it's not last year," he said.
Michigan has had success the past two weeks, routing Purdue and Illinois, in part because the game plan included asking Robinson to run first and pass second. He hasn't thrown an interception since throwing a career-high four in a loss to Notre Dame.
"There is growth in Denard in what he's been doing," Hoke said.
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