Just a couple of short weeks ago, Rich Rodriguez appeared to be dangling by a thread at Michigan. In his third year as head coach, Rodriguez had lost the offensive genius tag he carried at West Virginia, and many in the Wolverine state were wondering if he could coach at all.
Michigan had struggled significantly over the two seasons it played under Rodriguez -- first with Lloyd Carr's players, and then last year with some Rodriguez recruits mixed in. There was little doubt that he was playing 2010 with the highest of stakes laid out on the table -- his future in Ann Arbor.
Now, after two games which were both impressive victories, Rodriguez has a little of his swagger back. He took out UConn in surprisingly simple fashion in the season-opener, and now has dispatched a resurgent Notre Dame. Many observers felt that Rodriguez needed at least a split in those first two outings to have a good shot at a winning season, and Michigan's first bowl game since Carr left.
Success has come for Rodriguez with what is seemingly the simplest of formulas. He has convinced his team to play reasonably sound defense, and then just hand the ball to its fastest player on offense, and let him run away from everyone else.
Sophomore QB Denard Robinson, deemed too poor a passer and too far behind in his grasp of the offense to play a ton last season, has started both games in 2010, and the results have certainly brightened the future for Rodriguez at Michigan. After his 197 yards rushing and 186 yards passing against UConn, Robinson went off the chart against the Fighting Irish with 258 rushing yards, and 244 more passing in the 28-24 Michigan win.
It appears that Rich Rodriguez has found and developed the quarterback he said his offense needed, and secured his own future at Michigan at the same time.
--For the second straight year, Michigan came back in the final minute to beat the Fighting Irish. Last season, QB Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a dramatic comeback and the win, while it was fellow sophomore Denard Robinson this season who scored the game-winner with just 27 seconds to play.
--Michigan played smart with the ball against Notre Dame, and won the turnover battle 3-0 with three interceptions.
--Junior WR Martavious Odoms has developed into a strong first option for the Wolverines in the passing game, and he came through with seven catches for a team-high 91 receiving yards in the win over Notre Dame. Odoms grabbed four passes for 58 yards in the first quarter alone.
-- Michigan LS Tom Pomarico's dad Frank played guard for the Fighting Irish from 1970-74, and was the roommate of former LSU and Indiana head coach and current college football analyst Gerry DiNardo.
-- GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Denard Robinson -- The speedy sophomore from Florida showed everyone that his 383 total yards against UConn in the opener was no fluke. Robinson put on one of the greatest performances ever in Notre Dame Stadium, rolling up 502 yards of total offense in the 28-24 Michigan win. He rushed 28 times for 258 yards and completed 24-of-40 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown.
-- KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Jonas Mouton -- The Michigan defense needed a leader, and the fifth-year senior Mouton appears to have leaped into the role. He led the Wolverines with a career-high 13 tackles, with one tackle for loss. Mouton also had his second career interception and returned it nine yards to Notre Dame's 31-yard line, setting up the first Michigan touchdown of the game.
-- QUOTE TO NOTE: "I didn't even know I had some kind of record. I'm a team player, and I don't look at the stats. Our offense came together. The offensive line blocked, the receivers catching, everything was clicking." -- Michigan sophomore QB Denard Robinson on his record-breaking performance in the win over Notre Dame.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Michigan's offense would not be humming along like it has without solid line play, and the boss up front is C David Molk, a two-time Rimington Trophy candidate. After missing eight games last season with knee and foot injuries, a healed and rehabbed Molk is one of the anchors clearing the way for the revived Wolverines offense, and helping the sophomore quarterback get space to perform.
STILL NEEDS WORK: There is not a soul in the Michigan camp who believes the Wolverines can continue to work sophomore QB Denard Robinson this hard, and expect him to last the season. Robinson has carried the ball almost 60 times in the first two games, and although he's been explosive and wildly productive, the physical punishment he is taking will quickly wear on Robinson, so Michigan needs others to share the load.
--DB Vladimir Emilien, a sophomore, left the program in the days prior to the Notre Dame game, saying he intended to transfer. Emilien was listed as the backup to Cam Gordon, and played very little in the opening win over UConn.
--WR Junior Hemingway did not play against Notre Dame due to a persistent hamstring injury.
--DB Thomas Gordon made his first career start, facing Notre Dame from the bandit position. Gordon had five tackles, including four solos, while starting in place of injured freshman Carvin Johnson.
--DB Carvin Johnson, a true freshman, left the UConn game with a knee injury, and did not play against Notre Dame.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who also missed the season-opener against UConn with a knee injury, did not play against Notre Dame.