Monday, November 19, 2012

A ray of hope

Iowa 17 - #21 Michigan 42
Melanie Maxwell |
I'm supposed to have something poetic to say about Denard Robinson, but Saturday's game left me cold. Denard lining up as a running back is not how this is supposed to go, not in college football where he turns dropped snaps into 43-yard touchdowns and made an entire fan base invent a whole new vocabulary to grapple with what he was doing on the field. For the last three years, Michigan fans have held their collective breath as Denard did whatever he could to get the ball 10 yards further toward the endzone. We usually exhaled pleasantly surprised.

The lasting image of Saturday's game for me, however, will be Fitz Toussaint's gruesome broken leg. In real time, there wasn't much to see but the slow-motion replay was one of those scenes they'll never show again and that I unfortunately saw before I could cover my eyes. Those are the kinds of injuries that end careers. For a player who has spent the last 11 games unsuccessfully fighting off tacklers in the backfield, in one of the first times all season he gets to the light of day and that happens. It all just seems unfair.

Toussaint has another season if he's able to recover, a luxury that's not afforded to Denard who lost his season to a similarly unfair albeit less horrifying injury. Denard's last game in the Big House felt like a dud though, and the heckling he'll get from Ohio State fans won't even be deserving of a his success. He'll be on the sideline rather than letting the "boos" rain down on him on the field. Denard Robinson's final game in a Michigan jersey will be in a half-filled stadium somewhere far away from Ann Arbor.

Of course Jordan Kovacs and Will Campbell and Roy Roundtree also touched the banner for their final time in maize and blue and unlike Denard, it's unlikely any of these guys will sniff the NFL. Were it not for Denard the last three years, this would probably go down as one of the most forgettable senior classes in Michigan history. Recruited by Rich Rodriguez, he specialized in finding the diamonds in the rough, of which none ever developed at Michigan. Three straight classes of pedestrian talent held together by Denard's heroics.

I think that's why Denard became so beloved. Put aside his smile or the fact that he's a talent that Michigan had never seen before. He was a ray of hope during the program's most devastating three years. Were it not for Denard, Michigan's abhorrent record during his tenure would have been even worse. There's a reason that there are multiple instances of Denard's first snap on YouTube with 60,000-plus views. He was Michigan football over the last year, both figuratively and literally.

With only two games left, Denard will be unceremoniously sent off to the NFL where his career will probably be a flash in the pan, not unlike his time at Michigan.


Arontal said...

Jesus, that was a depressing read. Someone piss in your cornflakes this morning? I've seen stroke patients with a more positive outlook. You want some meds?

Yes, Michigan sucked the last few years. Yes, Denard was its saving Grace. But, the last two years have hardly been a loss.

While anyone would prefer to see Denard finish his home career at his preferred position, he still was on he field racking up almost 100 yards as a part time "something back". The game was his early audition for the type of role he'd play in the pros. And, there's no reason to think he'll be out of football in a couple of years. While it's possible, there are players like Randle El that had decent careers.

Personally, I thought he game demonstrated a perfect transition of power into what appears to be a promising Devin Gardner era. It was a little bittersweet with Denard relegated to using his legs alone, but I wouldn't walk into oncoming traffic about it. Lighten up, Francis.

FMH said...

Although I agree with a lot of what you said, basically the RR years being terrible with so little talent recruited that was highlighted by Denard being amazing, I have to take serious exception to the the implication that Denard's college career is a 'flash in the pan'. I had to go to UM's site to get a list because it was so extensive, but here are Denard's accomplishments during his time at UM:

three-year varsity letterman
appeared in 46 career games; made 35 starts, 34 at quarterback and one at running back
currently holds the NCAA season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,702), surpassing Air Forces's Beau Morgan's 1,494 against Wisconsin (Nov. 20, 2010)
currently ranks third in career rushing yards by a quarterback (4,175)
became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season in 2010
fourth player in NCAA history to gain 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a season twice in his career (2010, `11), joining Missouri's Brad Smith, UAB's Joe Webb and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick
10th player in NCAA history to gain 3,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards passing in a career
became the eighth player in NCAA history to score 200 points and pass for 200 points in his career
eighth player in NCAA history to rush for 40 TDs and pass for 40 TDs
eighth player in Big Ten history to post at least 10,000 yards of total offense
- Big Ten Rushing ... ranks first in career rushing yards by a quarterback (4,175), surpassing Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (3,895) at Purdue (Oct. 6)

And now just his UM records:
- ranks fifth in career yardage (4,175)
- ranks tied for third in career touchdowns (41)
- ranks tied for fourth in career 100-yard games (18)
- surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards against Illinois (Oct. 13, 2012)
- 13 career multi-touchdown games
- ranks fourth in career passing yardage (6,250)
- ranks fourth in career touchdown passes (49)
- ranks sixth in career completions (427)
- ranks fourth in career passing attempts (746)
- 8 multi-touchdown games
- ranks first in career total offense (10,425)
- owns the top eight and ten of the top 11 single-game offensive outputs; record is 502 yards (244 passing, 258 rushing) at Notre Dame, 9/11/10)
- has 17 career games with three-plus total touchdowns (5 - 3 times, 4 - 7 times, 3 - 7 times).

Mark Weisman's career at Iowa is a flash in the pan. Hell, even Roy Roundtree's 2010 season was flash in the pan. But Denard has one of the most accomplished careers of any athlete to ever wear the winged helmet. The only thing that stood between Denard and the possibility of a Legends jersey was a good defense in 2010.

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