Michigan's Jake Ryan (47) celebrates after stopping Air Force's Connor Dietz late in the fourth quarter. The defense had to make one final stand to secure the victory.
ANN ARBOR -- This was the Denard Robinson the Michigan football faithful expected to see.
Not the quarterback who struggled last week to complete a pass or to break out for a lengthy run against a national power, but the fireball who helped power the Wolverines last season. Of course, it was also the energetic player Air Force most likely expected to see.
In Michigan's 31-25 win over Air Force on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, Robinson accounted for 426 yards of rushing and passing -- nine more than Air Force's total offense.
"I calmed down there a little more," said Robinson, who had a game-high 218 yards on 20 carries.
Photo gallery: Michigan vs. Air Force
But in that same vein, the Wolverines (1-1) got an immediate look at Air Force's triple-option offense, and Michigan's defense had to work down to Air Force's final play to complete the win. While Michigan outgained the Falcons 422-417 -- Michigan lost 11 yards on three carries as a team -- Robinson and the Wolverines had to outpace the Falcons (1-1).
There was no simple way to shut down Air Force, which grinded its way through the game. The Falcons used eight different rushers against the Wolverines and had possession of the ball for 35 minutes, 22 seconds, while the Wolverines had possession for only 24:38.
As the Wolverines pulled, the Falcons pushed back. Air Force cut Michigan's lead to 14-10 on Cody Getz's five-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes left in the first half, then again cut Michigan's lead to 28-25 less than three minutes into the third quarter on Getz's third touchdown.
"We played an awful lot of plays on defense, and that means you're not doing a good enough job getting them off the field, but their tempo was one of those things that's good," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We learned a lot about it, and we played a lot of guys."
While Michigan's defense continued to adjust until Air Force's final drive, Robinson's performance set the tone for Michigan's offense.
On Michigan's second play of its first drive, Robinson broke loose for a 79-yard touchdown run that helped Michigan take a 7-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.
Then, on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Robinson zipped across the middle of the field then dashed down the Air Force sideline for a 58-yard touchdown, a run that caused the senior to lose his right shoe.
"Not to be cocky or anything, but once I get in front of everybody, I don't think I'm going to get caught," Robinson said.
But after a third quarter in which Air Force and Michigan combined for three touchdowns and 21 points, Air Force cut Michigan's lead to three (28-25) with 12:01 left in the game on an eight-yard touchdown run by Getz (26 carries for 133 yards), followed by Connor Dietz's 2-point conversion pass to Marc Hendricks.
"When you're called to play defense, you've got to keep them out of the end zone," Hoke said
After Brendan Gibbons' 31-yard field goal gave Michigan a six-point cushion, Michigan heeded those words by making a final key stop.
With Air Force at its own 37 after a penalty for sideline interference, Ryan broke up Dietz's pass intended for Don Strickland on 2nd-and-15.
Dietz (10 for 19 passing, 127 yards; 14 carries for 63 yards rushing) lost a yard on the play and on 4th-and-16, Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan broke up a pass that was intended for Chris Jordan, ending Air Force's final drive.
"We all came together. We decided we needed to get this done," said Ryan, who finished with 11 tackles (four solo). We just needed to stop them and go from there."
Robinson believed the defense's final effort was indicative of Michigan's mentality.
"This team, I feel like we won't quit," Robinson said.