Michigan heading to Minnesota hoping Denard Robinson is OK and its offense can find end zone
LINCOLN, Neb. – Michigan heads to Minnesota this week with more questions than answers on offense.
The Wolverines have gone two straight games without scoring a touchdown — a first since the early 1960s — and they played the second half of Saturday's 23-9 loss to Nebraska without quarterback Denard Robinson.
Robinson injured a nerve in his right (throwing) elbow late in the first half, leaving him unable to grip the football. Robinson sustained a similar injury against Illinois two weeks ago, and coach Brady Hoke said it only heals with rest.
Hoke said he wasn't concerned about Robinson's availability this Saturday. A Michigan spokesman said Sunday that Hoke wouldn't address Robinson's status again until Monday.
The Wolverines (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten), who dropped out of the Top 25, share first place in the Legends Division with Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers own the tiebreaker.
Robinson has accounted for two-thirds of his team's yards, so his absence creates a huge strain on the offense. But even with Robinson playing, the Wolverines couldn't get into the end zone against Michigan State or Nebraska.
Michigan drove to the Spartans 6- and 3-yard lines but couldn't punch the ball in. They used four field goals, including one with nine seconds left, to beat the Spartans.
The Wolverines generated a season-low 188 yards against the Huskers. They managed just 44 yards after redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy took over for Robinson with Michigan trailing 7-3 late in the first half. The closest Michigan got to scoring a touchdown was when Robinson was injured on his run to the Nebraska 8-yard line.
Receiver Roy Roundtree said he's at a loss to figure out the problem.
"I have no clue, but we need to move the ball," he said. "It starts at the line of scrimmage. Coach Hoke always emphasizes that. We have to do better. The defense is doing their job. We've got to turn it up. We have four games left. We have to turn it around and score some points."
Michigan's reliance on Robinson has had its rewards. He came into the Nebraska game as the Big Ten's leading rusher at almost 129 yards a game, and the Wolverines were able to win their first three Big Ten games despite a mediocre passing game.
"I feel like it is hard to put it all on one player," offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said.
The risk of putting so much on Robinson showed up when he landed awkwardly on his right arm as Baker Steinkuhler tackled him.
Hoke wouldn't second-guess Robinson's decision to fight for an extra yards rather than to protect himself by stepping out of bounds.
"You've got a guy that is a pretty good competitor, and sometimes competitors are stubborn," Hoke said. "He was trying to get into the end zone. For me to say he shouldn't have done that, I would be a hypocrite."
Nebraska blitzed Bellomy mercilessly, and he misfired on his first 10 passes and was intercepted three times. On the one scoring drive he led, which ended with a field goal, 45 of Michigan's 58 yards were the result of Nebraska penalties.
Hoke said he never considered using third-string quarterback Devin Gardner, who plays receiver. Hoke said Gardner took no snaps in practice last week.
Hoke said he checked with athletic trainers a couple times to see if Robinson could go back into the game as Bellomy struggled.
"He couldn't grip the ball real well, and he didn't feel like he could throw the ball well enough," Hoke said.