By LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) _ Connecticut tried everything to stop Denard Robinson, including ripping off his shoes. Nothing worked. Robinson accounted for 383 yards and two touchdowns in his first game as Michigan’s starting quarterback, leading the Wolverines to a 30-10 win over UConn on Saturday at the bigger-than-ever Big House.
The player known as “Shoelace” because he doesn’t lace up his cleats gave the Huskies fits.
“They were like, `Take his shoe! Take his shoe!” Robinson recalled. “They took them off, one of the plays, when I ran and got a first down.
“They were trying to slow me down, I guess.” Robinson ran for 197 yards– setting a school record for a QB– and a TD.
He was 19 of 22 for 186 yards and a score.
“Denard Robinson’s going to make people look bad,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said.
The Wolverines and embattled coach Rich Rodriguez desperately needed a victory to start his third season in Ann Arbor. Michigan lost 16 games in his first two seasons with college football’s winningest team and violated major NCAA rules for the first time in program history.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Rodriguez said. “This is just a win, but I’m going to let our guys enjoy it. I told our players, `We’ve got a huge game next week, we have to keep the same focus we had the last four weeks.'”
Michigan plays at Notre Dame, which won its opener, on Saturday.
The Wolverines’ opener could not have gone much better as they dominated an experienced UConn team considered a contender in the Big East. The Huskies trailed by 21 early and had a chance to pull within a TD late in the third quarter, but USC transfer D.J. Shoemate took a shot from J.T. Floyd and fumbled and Obi Ezeh recovered at the Michigan 3.
“That was huge,” Rodriguez said. The crowd was too. A football attendance record of 113,090 was set at the new-look Michigan Stadium, which now has towering structures along both sidelines with luxury boxes and club seats that are part of a $226 million renovation.
The previous mark was 112,118– also at Michigan Stadium — in 2003, the last time the Wolverines beat rival Ohio State. A video tribute– with Keith Jackson’s booming voice piped in– ribbon-cutting ceremony and an improbable walk by Brock Mealer, whose brother, Elliott, is a Michigan offensive lineman, got the crowd fired up before kickoff.
Doctors had told Brock Mealer he wouldn’t be able to walk again after he and his brother were involved in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 2007 that killed their father and his brother’s girlfriend. Steadying himself with two canes, Brock Mealer slowly made his way onto the field with his brother at his side and even stopped to grab the big Go Blue banner the team runs under when they leave the tunnel and run onto the field.
“It was a touching moment for us because we know the whole story,” Rodriguez said.
When the game began, the Wolverines didn’t let their fans down. Michigan’s defense, which was a huge problem last season, forced the Huskies to go three-and-out on the opening drive.
“Last year, we weren’t good, so this year we wanted to come out and make a statement,” linebacker Craig Roh said. Robinson beat out last year’s starter, Tate Forcier, and highly touted freshman Devin Gardner, for the right to take the first snap and quickly showed why.
He displayed his blazing speed then proved he could throw, too, after failing to instill faith in his arm last year as a freshman. He threw sharp passes in the flat, over the middle and deep downfield and perfectly executed a play in which he pump faked one way and threw another. Robinson ran the ball 29 times– usually by design– and broke Steve Smith’s QB rushing record of 147 yards, set in 1983 at Minnesota.
“That’s crazy,” Robinson said. “That’s a dream come true.” Vincent Smith, coming off knee surgery, scored his first of two touchdowns on a 12-yard run on the opening possession and on an 11-yard pass early in the fourth to make it 30-10. Robinson had a 32-yard TD run late in the first quarter and handed off to Michael Shaw for a scoring run early in the second that put the Wolverines ahead 21-0.
UConn bounced back with a field goal and Jordan Todman, who ran for 105 yards, rushed for a TD run to pull within 21-10 at halftime.
Michigan pushed it to 24-10 with a field goal in the third quarter after a long, time-consuming drive. UConn was on the verge of cutting the lead to a touchdown when Shoemate fumbled and that was the Huskies last threat.
UConn’s Zach Frazer was 18 of 37 for 205 yards, missing many opportunities because of drops and errant throws.
“I hold every drop on me,” Frazer said. “Some of the passes were a little left, a little right. I’m disappointed if it’s not on their chest on their hands exactly.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)