Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE
It's the question that continues to nag Husker fans everywhere. The mobilest of mobile quarterbacks comes to Lincoln Saturday night. He must be stopped. But how?
Not that I'm stuck in a rut (I am, but I suspect I'm not alone), but the question of the week is: How will Nebraska stop Denard Robinson?
Michigan State held Michigan to 326 total yards of offense last week, allowing the Wolverines 12 points. Robinson had 20 carries (twice as many as Fitzgerald Toussaint) for 96 yards, giving up only four field goals in a 12-10 loss. If the Spartans had any semblance of an offense, they'd have won.
The Spartans know about dealing with Robinson, so I asked Chris Vannini of the Michigan State site The Only Colors the answer to that question.
Denard Robinson can be one of the most electrifying players in college football, and also one of the derp-est. MSU has been able to bring out the bad side of Shoelace. How?
Well first of all, you have to have the players. If it was simple, everyone could do it. MSU tries to put speed on the outside of the line and the outside linebackers, and there are quite a few players who have and will play in the NFL on this defense. It's easy to say it's only a scheme thing, but honestly, you're going to have to have the players. Does Nebraska? I don't know the personnel very well. I'll leave it up to you guys to make that determination.
The second part is scheme. There are a few ways to shut down Robinson. What Alabama did was rush four or so, and send everyone back in coverage, but they were also ready if he wanted to take off running. Michigan fans criticized the playcalling for a lack of designed runs, but I don't know how successful that would have been. It's Alabama, after all. The downside of letting Robinson take all the time in the world to pass, is he's going to throw a lot of deep balls. The Wolverines came down with a couple of them for their scores. But Alabama is full of sure-fire NFL players in the back seven, so they trusted their coverage. Few teams can do this. From what I remember, Notre Dame was also good at this, picking Robinson off left and right with safeties and linebackers.
The other way to attack him is what MSU does: all-out pressure. MSU is already a blitz-heavy team, and this consistently destroyed the read-option Michigan runs. Up the A-gaps, on the outside, from the cornerbacks, MSU loves to blitz and put quarterbacks under pressure.
The hope here is that 1) Robinson doesn't have time to set his feet to attempt a good throw, or a throw at all and 2) take away all the running lanes and collapse things. It has proven quite successful. Robinson completed 49 percent of his passes, with five interceptions (although one was a Hail Mary) and 6.1 yards per attempt over three years as the starter. On the ground, he rushed for 224 yards on 59 carries. That's 3.8 yards per carry. He had never really broken a long run until a 44-yarder late in last week's game. Take that away, and it drops to 3.1 yards per carry.
I've always believed Denard Robinson is what makes college football great. The variety of schemes and skill players is so much better than the bland NFL, where everyone pretty much runs the same basic style of things. Robinson will never be an NFL quarterback, but that doesn't make him a bad college quarterback. His record speaks for itself. It would have been nice for him to go winless against MSU, but by all accounts, he's a great kid, so you can still be somewhat happy for him.
Can Nebraska stop him? I don't know, but the performances against the Huskers by Robinson last year and Braxton Miller this year make me very skeptical.
[Editor's note - Jon: Well, it was great right up there 'til the very end. Keep the faith!]