LINCOLN, Neb. — Things became a lot more complicated for the Michigan football team after a 23-9 loss Saturday at Nebraska.
The Wolverines fell out of the Associated Press top 25 poll and the USA Today coaches poll, and they lost the inside track on earning a berth in the Big Ten title game.
By virtue of Saturday’s win over the Wolverines, Nebraska holds the tiebreaker in what could become a tightly knotted Legends Division, as Nebraska and Michigan are 3-1 in conference play, each with four games remaining.
But the most glaring complication? Michigan lost quarterback Denard Robinson late in the first half of Saturday’s loss, and the Wolverines’ main concern in preparation for this week’s game at Minnesota will be Robinson’s health.
ESPN reported that Robinson injured a nerve in the elbow of his throwing arm when he was hit completing a seven-yard run at the end of the first half, which impacted his ability to grip the ball.
Robinson initially suffered the injury two weeks ago in a 45-0 win over Illinois, which he said at the time was “a funny bone, nothing serious.”
"He's got that nerve, when he gets hit the wrong way, it gets hit, it's hard," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "The difference (from Illinois) is that he didn't come back."
Hoke will address the media today in Ann Arbor and is expected to provide an update on Robinson, though he said Saturday that he didn’t anticipate the possibility of Robinson not being available against the Gophers.
Robinson stood on the sidelines at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium in his helmet and in a Michigan jacket, watching the Huskers limit the Wolverines (5-3, 3-1 Big Ten) to 14 rushing yards in the second half.
Michigan was a completely different team with redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy taking the snaps — a baptism by fire of sorts for the redshirt freshman, who has had spot duty in four games this season.
“It wasn’t easy for Russ in there for the first time,” said Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree, who finished with one catch for 32 yards and had a 55-yard catch wiped out in the first half, overruled by officials after video review.
“But it’s something we’ve got to adjust to so we can do better at moving the ball. Running the ball is the main thing, and I don’t think we did a good job at that.”
While Bellomy (3-of-16 passing, 38 yards, three interceptions) and the Wolverines struggled to produce plays, Robinson remained on the sidelines.
“He was still fully supportive of all of us,” offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said. “If you saw him, he was giving you support. He was telling you, ‘Keep going, keep going, you got this.’ He was trying to keep us together.”
And Michigan’s offense, already toiling, took an added hit with the loss of Robinson, who has accounted for 2,265 of Michigan’s 3,025 rushing and passing yards.
Michigan hasn’t scored a touchdown in two games, as kickers Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile have accounted for all of Michigan’s scoring — seven field goals and 21 points in that time.
And, according to Hoke, not one person or one thing is to blame for Michigan’s recent offensive ineptitude. It’s a collective burden.
"Getting into the red zone and not taking advantage of it,” said Hoke, whose team was inside the Nebraska 20-yard line just three times on Saturday. “When you have those opportunities, the frustration level can vary, from not blocking the line of scrimmage, or maybe a guy not running a good route, or the quarterback not playing as well.
"All those things. It's always a combination of everything. It's never one guy or guys' deal. We brought 70 guys, coaches and staff, and this is on all of us."
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.