Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said the defense did not defend Robinson well enough on rushing plays, as he broke the triple digit mark in rushing for the 18th time in his career with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts.
“Denard’s a great football player,” Beckman said. “He made people miss tonight. He made people miss tackles. I guess we didn’t defend well enough because he had a spectacular football game.”
Robinson also connected on seven of 11 pass attempts for, 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Given his track record, the Illinois defense knew that Robinson was a dynamic quarterback, so defensive coordinator Tim Banks said he tried a few different strategies against him. An extra defender was added to the box in an attempt to slow Robinson down. However, Banks said the defense was unable to contain him even despite the adjustments.
“Obviously we knew he was a great player coming into the game,” Banks said. “He presents multiple issues in terms of having to put one more guy in the box, and obviously we didn’t do a good job of containing him.”
Illinois wasn’t alone in making adjustments, though. The Michigan offense changed their running style after its results in recent games. Michigan ran to the split end more than the tight end against Illinois, which lead to confusion for Illinois’s defense.
“They changed up a little bit based on some things they had done over the last three games,” Banks said. “…We felt like we made the right adjustments, but at the end of the day obviously we didn’t do enough.”
The Illinois defense was able to notch just two tackles for a loss against Michigan. The lack of presence in the Michigan backfield allowed Robinson enough time to be patient and make the right decisions on both rushing and passing plays.
“He’s really fast,” defensive end Michael Buchanan said. “He’s really fast and he’s a really patient runner also. He waits until he finds a seam and he hits it. Once he gets in the open field it’s extremely tough to catch him.”
Buchanan openly discussed the letdown, disappointed in another Big Ten loss.
“I’m extremely surprised,” he said. “This wasn’t what we expected coming into the season. I think I can speak for everybody when I say that.”