LINCOLN, Neb. - That funny bone is becoming less and less of a laughing matter for the Michigan football team.
For the second time in three weeks, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson left the game with what ESPN reported as a nerve injury to the elbow in Robinson's throwing arm. Two weeks ago, after a 45-0 win over Illinois, Robinson dismissed the injury to his "funny bone." I'm no doctor, though my handwriting might say otherwise, but here's the joke - the funny bone isn't actually a bone. It's the ulnar nerve, which runs from the neck to the hand.
“Everybody gets hurt, so, it’s all good," Robinson said after the win over Illinois, flashing his trademark grin. "I came back in and it didn’t bother me at all.”
This time, in Saturday's 23-9 loss at Nebraska, Robinson didn't return. And he wasn't made available to the media after Saturday's loss, which left the door open to speculation. Could it be better, could it be worse, is this going to be a common occurence? This isn't an isolated injury, either. A year ago, Robinson left Michigan's win at Iowa after he lost feeling in his fingers ... when his funny bone took a hit.
Saturday against Nebraska, Robinson took the ball down to the Nebraska 8 instead of opting to go out of bounds, and was hit on the play. Which begged the question in the post-game presser: Why didn't he go out of bounds and avoid such an injury?
“He was trying to get into the end zone,” Hoke said of Robinson’s choice to run the ball. “For me to say he shouldn’t have done that, I would be a hypocrite. You like competitive people, and he is a competitive guy.”
But Michigan's dynamic completely changed after Robinson left the game. The offense had no crispness and the defense stayed on the field for way too long - Nebraska's offense had possession for more than 19 minutes in the second half and Michigan's offense for less than 11.
That wears on a team.
"At times we didn't do a good enough job of getting ourselves off the field," safety Jordan Kovacs said. "Nebraska has an up-tempo offense and they ran it well at times. We missed tackles, we missed assignments and just didn't play well."
Robinson is Michigan's most valuable asset. Russell Bellomy doesn't have enough experience that allows Michigan to make the transition from one quarterback to another, and probably doesn't have enough to instill or continue the confidence that Michigan has when it's playing on the same field as Robinson. And Hoke maintained that Devin Gardner - converted from quarterback to wide receiver in preparation for this season - wasn't an option at quarterback against Nebraska.
The Wolverines won't say as much. They said they'll stand behind their man, whether it's Robinson or Bellomy.
"We understand that if someone gets hurt, it's our job to play our position," Michigan offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said. "If one of us goes out then the next player comes in, and we have full confidence in him."
Still, if Michigan hopes to secure a berth in the Big Ten title game, they can't do it without Denard Robinson, whom there's no replacing or, better yet, replicating. There's only hope that Robinson heals - and heals quickly.