Sunday, November 18, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: Michigan 42, Iowa 17
By Michael Rothstein
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This had been in Al Borges’ pocket since he arrived at Michigan last January, the possibility to have Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field at the same time and move them all over the place.
He did so masterfully Saturday in the first true unveiling of this part of the Michigan offense in a 42-17 win over Iowa and it could leave Ohio State and a future bowl opponent with a lot to prepare for.
His offensive mastery leads this week’s version of 3 Up, 3 Down.
1. Michigan’s offense
Devin Gardner accounted for six touchdowns against Iowa.
The Wolverines showed what their offense can look like when completely effective Saturday, complete with a triple reverse, two quarterbacks on the field at the same time and a confounding package in which it was be next to impossible to predict what would be coming from Michigan’s offense. If the Wolverines execute the way they did against Iowa on Saturday, offensive football becomes Al Borges’ personal fun factory with almost limitless possibilities, especially if Denard Robinson continues to have his elbow heal and is capable of throwing the ball in a game next week.
The two most experienced Michigan wide receivers have had a renaissance with Gardner at quarterback and Michigan running a pro-style offense. Gardner is hitting them in small windows and in return, they are making big plays again and again when asked to. On Saturday, Gallon made a great adjustment on a deep ball thrown ever-so-slightly off by Gardner and turned it into a 51-yard completion.
3. Denard Robinson
After missing two games to injury and struggling to have good velocity on his passes in warmups Saturday, Robinson turned into the all-purpose back some had clamored for him to be during his entire career. He took snaps at quarterback, running back and wide receiver, gaining 122 all-purpose yards and simultaneously showing NFL scouts what -- even at just raw skill at receiver -- could be possible with him in the backfield or out wide. While he is helping his team, he might also be helping his draft stock.
Toussaint suffered what looked like a gruesome injury in the first quarter Saturday against Iowa, finishing off a 10-yard run by being hit both in the head and squarely in the leg. After being down for several minutes, he was eventually boarded and put on a cart and taken to the University of Michigan Hospital, where he had surgery on an undisclosed body part. Toussaint, before the injury, had been running well for one of the few times this season, gaining 31 yards on three carries. He was averaging 10.3 yards per rush at the time of his injury.
2. Handling mobile quarterbacks
James Vandenberg is not Kain Colter or Nathan Scheelhaase and certainly not Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, but Michigan again struggled to handle a quarterback with any speed at all against Iowa. Vandenberg gained 35 yards on eight carries -- 4.4 yards a rush, which was better than Gardner, Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls -- and showed some elusiveness. Brady Hoke was not pleased with how they handled this after the game and to beat Ohio State, Michigan will have to improve greatly.
3. Michigan’s student section
Not knowing whether Robinson would play and despite pleas from both Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon and also some Michigan players themselves, the Michigan students for the most part skipped pregame senior day festivities for Robinson, Jordan Kovacs, Roundtree and others. When the ceremony started, the student section, which comprises the northwest corner of Michigan Stadium, was maybe 15 percent full and didn’t get close to half full to right around kickoff. Considering they won’t see a game until Aug. 31, 2013 in Ann Arbor and it would be the final time to honor Robinson, it was not a good showing by his peers. At all.