ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Denard Robinson usually needs 60 minutes to take a defense apart.
Saturday, he only took 40.
No. 17 Michigan rolled over hapless Massachusetts 63-13 Saturday, and Robinson didn’t even need to work a full afternoon to do it. He only played two series in the second half — both resulting in touchdowns — and left with the Wolverines holding a commanding 56-13 lead late in the third quarter.
“There’s no way we could prepare for him, because there’s no one like him on our team,” said UMass coach Charley Molnar. “Actually, there’s no one else like him in the country.”
Even without playing the fourth quarter, Robinson put up his usual mind-boggling numbers. He rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown — a slow day for him — but he also completed 16 of 24 passes for 291 yards and three scores.
“We needed the — we needed a big win before the Notre Dame game,” Robinson said. “We know we need to get better before that one. We’re going to need to better as a football team every day going into that game and going into the Big Ten.”
Robinson should have had accounted for a fifth touchdown, but he fumbled while trying to dive in from the 1-yard line. On a day where Michigan had everything going its way, even that turned out to be a good thing, as offensive tackle Taylor Lewan dove on the loose ball for his first career touchdown.
“It was a good thing that he only fell on the ball, and didn’t run it in,” guard Patrick Omaneh said. “It’s always exciting when an offensive lineman gets a touchdown, but we would have never heard the end of that.”
The winless Minutemen came into the game as massive underdogs, but some of their players were around two years ago when they took Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines to the brink of disaster before Michigan held on for a 42-37 victory.
Robinson wasn’t about to let that happen again. Except for one mistake in the second quarter — a bad pass that Christian Birt picked off and returned 32 yards for a touchdown — he handled the Minutemen with ease. Michigan scored eight touchdowns in his 10 drives, including the last five.
“All I’m thinking about winning — I don’t care about stats and records,” Robinson said. “On the Pick-6, I had a perfect read, but it was a terrible throw. I left a few more throws out there, too.”
With a 50-point victory and a chance to pull the starters midway through the second half, you would expect Brady Hoke to be smiling during his post-game press conference. At least you would expect that if you had never met Brady Hoke.
“I think we are finally progressing in the two areas where we most need it — up front on offense and up front on defense — but there’s still a long way to go,” Hoke said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
After a suspension that cost him the Alabama game, Fitz Toussaint only managed seven yards against Air Force, so he was under the spotlight against UMass. He bounced back with 85 yards and a touchdown against the Minutemen, and his fellow running backs pitched in with another 95 yards and three scores.
Of course, Hoke wasn’t satisfied.
“I think Fitz did OK, but there were a couple plays where he needed to put his foot in the ground and turn a run into a vertical play,” he said. “Still, it hard for your running backs to be playmakers when you aren’t blocking for them. We have running backs, wide receivers and tight ends who have the capability of being playmakers for this offense, but the whole team has to work together.”
In the passing game, the mystery of Roy Roundtree continued. He only caught two passes for 25 years, giving him five for the season, although he did score his first touchdown. The two Devins — Gardner and Funchess — continued to be prime downfield targets for Robinson, combining for 59 yards and two touchdowns on four catches, while Drew Dileo caught a 66-yard pass to set up another score.
“Whoever comes open, that’s where I’m throwing the ball,” Robinson said. “Roy’s a phenomenal athlete, but I’m comfortable with all of these guys. We’ve got a lot of weapons.”
So Michigan is 2-1, just like most people expected after three weeks. However, after a loss to the best team in the country, a struggle against a team running an unique offense and an unusual defense, and a blowout win over one of the nation’s worst teams, it is hard to know how good this team is and how good they can be.
The answers to those questions will begin to be answered next Saturday night in South Bend.