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January 4, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: White still greatest rushing QB

MORGANTOWN — Patrick White is getting jobbed.

There really is no other way to put it, now that college football is recognizing Michigan’s Denard Robinson as the NCAA’s all-time leader in career rushing yards by a quarterback.

It just isn’t so.

White, playing for Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart at West Virginia University, set the major-college record for rushing yards by a quarterback by gaining 4,480 on 684 carries from 2005 through 2008.

The mark was unquestioned, unchallenged.

Rodriguez, though, left WVU and took his offense with him to Michigan, where he came across Robinson, a player possessing the same skill set as White.

And so it was he set about reinventing his offense, establishing Robinson as everything White was, except, perhaps, a winner. Rodriguez could not win at Michigan and was dismissed, moving on to Arizona State.

Meanwhile, this season, Robinson closed out his career despite suffering some injuries, gaining 100 yards on 23 carries in the Wolverines’ loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

That gave Robinson a career total of 4,495 rushing yards — 15 more than White had produced.

Hail the new King!

Or was it Hail the new King?

See, against South Carolina, Robinson lined up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

Quarterback? He caught as many passes as he threw — one — and the pass he threw was incomplete.

Robinson had been injured over the final three games of his career, and that forced him to be taking handoffs from backup quarterback Devin Gardner rather than doing the handing off.

In the Outback Bowl, Robinson threw his one pass while Gardner went 18 of 34 for 214 yards and three touchdowns.

Those would numbers more reminiscent of, say, Brett Favre than Adrian Peterson, and last time anyone looked at a football lineup there was only one quarterback on the field at a time.

The reasoning being used is that Robinson was “primarily” a quarterback throughout his career, a ridiculous way to approach a situation in which his final 256 rushing yards clearly were gained when “primarily” not a quarterback.

The numbers of the two were incredibly similar:

Passing:

Robinson 427-747 for 6,250 yards, 49 TDs and 39 interceptions. That’s 57.2 percent.

White 507-783 for 6,049 yards, 56 TDs and 23 interceptions. That’s 64.8 percent.

Certainly White’s passing statistics were superior.

As for the rushing numbers:

Robinson 723-4,495, 6.2 average, 42 TDs

White 684-4,480 yards, 6.5 average, 47 TDs

Clearly, the edge goes to White other than the 15-yard edge gained by Robinson during three games when he wasn’t the quarterback on the field.

This totally loses sight of what the record is supposed to be.

First of all, there is a clear distinction between quarterback and running back, even in this day and age when they have taken the quarterback out from under center and use him more like an old-style single-wing tailback.

In part, because of sacks, a quarterback’s running totals normally can’t match those of running backs ... unfairly being subtracted from rushing totals when the play was not a rush at all and could only become one through the QB’s escapability.

What’s more, a quarterback carries an intellectual load in the area of play calling and a leadership role that separates it from a running back.

Now it’s true that Robinson might have broken the record easily had he not suffered a nerve injury on Oct. 27 and missed two games while remaining at quarterback, where he was averaging 126 yards rushing per game, but injuries are part of the game and always a factor in records.

Our problem here, perhaps, is one of semantics.

The argument made for Robinson receiving credit for the record because he was “primarily” a quarterback changes what the record really is.

If you buy that, you are buying that the record is the most rushing yards by a quarterback rather than most records by a person playing quarterback. What you are saying is that because he is known as a quarterback, he remains so even when lined up at tailback with another quarterback in the game and simply cries out as wrong.

Denard Robinson was a great collegiate running quarterback, but in the end, he came up short of gaining more yards on the ground “as a quarterback” than Pat White, and that’s just the way it comes up upon further review.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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