Michigan got off to a strong start for a change Saturday. Denard Robinson led the way, naturally.
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The speedy quarterback ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter and had three rushing scores before halftime, helping the 22nd-ranked Wolverines build a big lead that let them coast to a 28-7 win over San Diego State.
Michigan (4-0) was determined to avoid falling behind early after being outscored by a combined score of 21-0 in the first quarters against Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan.
”That’s one thing Coach was preaching on all week,” Robinson said.
In the days before the game, Brady Hoke publicly downplayed facing players he coached the previous two years before bolting from the beach to take his dream job at the Big House.
However, Hoke didn’t treat the postgame like just another one. He hugged Aztecs assistants and players, including long embraces with defensive linemen J.J. Autele and Larry Gibbs.
”That part of it is, I guess, is being a human being,” Hoke said.
San Diego State (3-1) did not make its players available for interviews after the game.
The Aztecs put pictures of Hoke and other former assistants on cards they used to signal plays in what they intended to be a sign of respect.
”Brady will win a national championship here,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. ”I don’t know how long it will take, but he will win one here.”
Robinson will really have to improve his ability to pass for Michigan to even contend for a Big Ten championship. He was 8 of 17 for 93 yards and two interceptions, failing to connect on half his passes for the third week in a row.
”I’m not too mad at myself,” Robinson said.
Robinson could feel good about his ability to run, gaining 200 yards rushing for the third time in his career, on 21 carries. He matched his career high with three rushing scores and did it in one half for the first time.
Michigan’s next game, its fifth straight at the Big House, is against Minnesota in the Big Ten opener.
Though the Wolverines forced three turnovers, they turned the ball over four times and were fortunate Ryan Lindley couldn’t hit open Aztecs.
After Lindley missed a teammate on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter, Robinson’s 30-yard sprint set up Vincent Smith’s 7-yard run to give Michigan a 28-7 lead on its only score of the second half.
”We were fortunate to get out to a decent lead and then our defense kept us in the game because we tried to give it away,” Hoke said.
Michigan started the second quarter with a lead for the first time this year and Robinson had a lot to do with that, running for 84 yards and two scores, including one from 53 yards.
”We are a very aggressive defense and in the first half; we were too aggressive,” Long said. ”That was my fault.”
The Wolverines were stronger on defense than they had been, slowing Ronnie Hillman on the ground and keeping Lindley from getting comfortable in the pocket.
San Diego State avoided a shutout when Lindley made a 16-yard pass to Colin Lockett with 4 seconds left in the third, taking advantage of Michigan’s third turnover in the quarter.
”You can’t win in the Pop Warner league if you turn the ball over,” Hoke said.
The Aztecs, though, failed to maintain momentum on their next drive after getting the ball and settling for their sixth punt after Lockett dropped an over-the-shoulder pass deep in Wolverines territory.
Lindley, who fumbled once, completed 23 of 48 passes for 253 yards and a TD. Hillman ran for 109 yards on 21 carries and fumbled twice.