Heisman Watch: Robinson a threat despite passing game downturn
The Watchman has reached the fifth and final stage in processing Denard Robinson: acceptance.
We're not talking acceptance in terms of Shoelace's worth. No, this is more about perception and how we should be judging the Michigan quarterback in the realm of Heisman contenders.
The detractors will say that he hasn't been able to make the transition from athlete to complete quarterback like Baylor's Robert Griffin III. You can blame it on the move to a West Coast offense, but there has been a regression in his passing game. Robinson's completions, yards and completion percentage are all down from the first four games of 2010. His passer rating of 132.1 is 62nd in FBS and he has thrown as many touchdown passes (six) as interceptions.
Look, Robinson may never blossom into the kind of player who can take over games with his arm. Performances like he had against Notre Dame, in which he threw for 338 yards and four TDs, probably won't become the norm. But he need only be effective enough to keep teams on their heels, because really the passing game should be viewed as a distant secondary in Robinson's arsenal.
Ask yourself this: If we had a running back who finished second nationally in 2010 with 1,702 yards and was currently leading FBS with 160.6 yards per game, wouldn't he be a Heisman favorite? If you took that same player and said that he had thrown for six TDs out of the Wildcat in four games, would we be knocking his accuracy?
Shoelace, at his core, may just be a glorified Wildcat triggerman -- and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There may not be a more dangerous player who touches the ball on every down and that's the hook that makes Robinson a true threat for the Wolverines first Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997.
So far, the preseason favorite has lived up to the hype and statistically speaking, the runner-up in 2010 could be in for an even bigger season. After passing for 3,051 yards, 28 TDs and seven picks through 12 games in 2010 (remember, Heisman voting takes place before the bowls), Luck is on pace for 3,144 yards, 32 TDs and four picks. Yes, he's taken advantage of a schedule that hasn't exactly been daunting -- none of the Cardinal's first three opponents have a winning record -- but few expected Luck to be truly tested until the latter half of the season anyway.
San Jose State (1-3), Duke 2-2, Arizona 1-3
Quarterback Stephen Garcia's struggles didn't aid Lattimore's cause, allowing Vanderbilt to load up to stop the run. The end result was the Gamecocks' first sub-100-yard game of the season as Lattimore lost the FBS rushing lead by two yards to LaMichael James. Still he found a way to impress with 150 combined yards from scrimmage, including a screen pass he took 52 yards for a score to go along with a 22-yard TD run. Lattimore has a chance to regain the No. 1 spot this week as South Carolina takes on Auburn, which ranks 112th nationally in rush defense.
It was a short night of work for Moore, who left the game with 9:25 left in the third quarter. He delivered when the Broncos needed it most, going 7 of 9 for 133 yards and TD on third and fourth downs over the first two quarters and for the third straight game he hit nine different receivers. Moore wasn't perfect. He fumbled a snap and a handoff, but it was a strong warm-up as Boise State looks to exact a little payback against Nevada, which ended the Broncos' BCS title game aspirations last season.
If RG3 hasn't dazzled us enough, he's added another dimension to his game: punter. Griffin had a 39-yard boot on a quick kick, the only time Baylor punted against Rice. Of course it's Griffin's arm that has him in the Heisman hunt, and he continues to have more TD passes (13) than incompletions (12) and has gone 143 attempts without throwing an interception. It's early and he has yet to face a Big 12 opponent, but with a 236.2 passer rating, Griffin stands a chance to obliterate the FBS record of 186.0 Colt Brennan set in 2006.
In just three quarters of work, Wilson became the fourth Badger to throw for 300 or more yards in two straight games and the first with at least 325 yards twice in a season. He also threw for three TDs for the third week in a row, putting him well on his way to obliterating John Stocco's single-season school record of 21. It was a strong tune up for a spotlight game that could catapult him up this list as Wisconsin takes on Nebraska in the first meeting of top-10 teams at Camp Randall since 1962.
Forget about the season-low 93 passing yards. Behind runs of 53 and 34 yards, Robinson posted his third straight 100-yard game and the third 200-yard game of his career to join Mike Hart and Ron Johnson as the only players in Michigan history to have three or more. He also bumped Juice Williams for second for most rushing yards by a Big Ten quarterback and now trails only Antwaan Randle-El on the alltime list.
Jones bounced back from his lowest output in more than two seasons with one of his most prolific days as a Sooner. He lit up Missouri with his fifth 400-yard game, giving him 15 games with at least 300 yards to move ahead of Sam Bradford and Josh Heupel for the Oklahoma career record. But it was also Jones' second consecutive game in which he's thrown two interceptions as his passer rating dipped to 149.4, which ranks 33rd nationally and fifth among all Big 12 QBs.
For the first time this season Richardson failed to score a rushing TD, though he did rack up 235 all-purpose yards behind his third straight 100-yard game on the ground. He also had his third touchdown of 50-plus yards, this time on a 61-yard screen pass. It continued a string of success against the Razorbacks. As a freshman, he burned them on a 52-yard TD run and last season he had 110 total yards on just 10 touches. Richardson will face a stiff test this week in Florida, which is allowing just 56.5 yards on the ground, fifth nationally.
Last season's rushing king reclaimed his crown -- and a spot on the Watchman's list -- in resounding fashion. James ran for 133 yards, including a 12-yard score, on 11 carries in the first quarter en route to breaking Ontario Smith's single game Ducks record of 257 yards and Derek Loville's mark of 42 career rushing TDs. He also moved up the Pac-12 career rushing list, bypassing Jacquizz Rodgers for sixth-most alltime with 3,890 yards. James gets a week off before facing, Cal, which hasn't allowed a back to hit 100 yards so far this season.
Now only Timmy Chang stands between Keenum and a spot in NCAA history. He moved ahead of Dan LeFevour and Graham Harrell for second on the career yardage list at 16,000 yards and is just 910 away from Chang's alltime record. He got there in just 2 ½ quarters as he dominated a Georgia State defense that came in 90th in FCS in pass efficiency D for his 14th 400-yard game. With an average of 383.5 passing yards per game, Keenum's third season with at least 5,000 yards seems well within reach.