ANN ARBOR - It was just one game, but that speeding train known as the Denard Robinson Heisman Express was forced onto a siding, a rail spur, Saturday.
Not so fast, said the Michigan State Spartans.
Robinson looked merely human for the first time this season on a day that MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins was superb and the Spartans made it three wins in as many years over Michigan's Wolverines.
The teams came in unbeaten and similarly ranked, but the final score was a somewhat lopsided 34-17. Cousins had a supporting cast, while Robinson, on this occasion, couldn't do it alone.
The Michigan phenom came in averaging 382.6 yards of total offense per game, and it had been enough for him to play over his team's defensive issues. The Wolverines were 5-0, but their dirty little not-so-secret was a defense that was giving up 433.6 yards per game and just last week had been roughed up for 568 yards by Indiana.
This time it was 536 yards to Michigan State, and Robinson could counter with a mere, in his case, 301 combined passing and rushing yards. That isn't bad by most standards, maybe not even his, but the difference this time was three interceptions thrown and absolutely no big plays. He had 11 rushes of between 21 and 87 yards in UM's first five games. Saturday, he had none longer than 16 and very few in double figures.
"He's a really exciting player, one of those guys where you can blink an eye and he'll score on you," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. "To handle a player like that, to limit his big plays, is just a matter of great team defense."
Like we said, it's one game and one game doesn't make Robinson a chump. He's still a scary weapon. The difference was MSU's offense had weapons all over the field.
It began with Cousins, whose Heisman transportation before Saturday, unlike Robinson's bullet train, might as well have been a Conestoga wagon. But he doesn't make mistakes, and his body of work now in 2010 is 99 completions in 145 attempts for 1,416 yards.
"Like I always say, a quarterback is only as good as the guys around him," Cousins said. "Our offensive line was tremendous, and we can rotate so many guys [backs and receivers]."
Cousins went on to name every Spartan he'd thrown a pass to - there were eight of them with three combining for 14 catches and 202 yards. Then he named all the running backs that combined for 249 net yards, led by Edwin Baker's 22 carries for 147.
At halftime, MSU had 110 rushing yards and 102 of them had come on two plays - scoring runs of 61 yards by Baker and 41 yards by Le'Veon Bell. Cousins took over early in the second half and by the end of the game the Spartans' offensive line was simply overpowering the Wolverines' defense whether blocking for the pass or run, whether at the point of attack, or pushing downfield.
It's not the first time it has happened. But it's the first time Michigan's quarterback hasn't provided the antidote.
Cousins, meanwhile, "is amazing and deserves every bit of attention he gets," said MSU receiver Mark Dell.
And he'll surely get more attention now. Cousins was the best quarterback on the field, but a big part of that was his being a member of the best team on the field.
Contact Blade sports columnist
Dave Hackenberg at:
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.