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Published: Tuesday, 11/15/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

MICHIGAN FOOTBALL

Robinson healthy, but Gardner in wings

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Denard Robinson will be the starter on Saturday when Michigan battles Nebraska. He is recovered from an injured wrist. Denard Robinson will be the starter on Saturday when Michigan battles Nebraska. He is recovered from an injured wrist.
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ANN ARBOR -- Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is healthy and ready to go, coach Brady Hoke said Monday, after he suffered a slight wrist injury in Saturday's win at Illinois.

If, however, Robinson's health was a cause for concern entering this week's matchup against Nebraska, it wouldn't necessarily spell gloom for the 20th-ranked Wolverines. More now perhaps than ever before, Hoke is confident in Robinson's understudy. Sophomore Devin Gardner played well after replacing Robinson early in the second half, advancing the offense, punctuating drives with points, and -- unlike Robinson -- not turning the ball over in a 31-14 win.

Had Gardner faltered, Hoke would've summoned Robinson back into the game. The wrist injury isn't serious, and according to Hoke, Robinson looked fine at Sunday's practice. But his return wasn't needed because Gardner had things under control and was able to put the Wolverines (8-2, 4-2 in Big Ten) in front 24-7 with 9:58 to go in the game when he stepped up in the pocket and hit Martavious Odoms in stride on a crossing pattern for his first touchdown pass of the season. It was Odoms' first touchdown catch since the Gator Bowl in January.

Michigan's schedule


"I think both quarterbacks have done a nice job," Hoke said Monday. "I think they're learning a process and a system, and I think they're both getting better every time they take the field."

Gardner attempted just five passes -- completing two for 47 yards -- as he operated a vanilla offensive attack that was backed by a suffocating Wolverines defense that allowed only 37 rushing yards and was 8-for-8 on third downs at one point. Mainly Gardner was asked to turn around and hand the ball off to Fitzgerald Toussaint, who set career highs with 27 carries and 192 rushing yards.

For the first time since its inception, the two-quarterback formation featuring Robinson and Gardner on the field together -- referred to by some as deuce -- was shelved. Gardner was on his own, and Robinson who fumbled twice before throwing his 13th interception on the final play of the first half, watched from the sideline. Only two players have thrown more interceptions than Robinson -- Central Michigan's Ryan Radcliff and Oregon State's Sean Mannion, both with 15.

"Devin did a good job managing the game, and [offensive coordinator Al Borges] did a nice job in calling the game," Hoke said. "I think it was conservative and it [was best] for us, the way our defense was playing, to play to our defense."

Devin Gardner (7) continues to impress the coaching staff. He played most of the second half against Illinois. Devin Gardner (7) continues to impress the coaching staff. He played most of the second half against Illinois.
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OSU START TIME: It was announced UM's game Nov. 16 against Ohio State Nov. 26 will begin at noon and be on either ABC or ESPN. It will be the eighth time the Wolverines have started at noon this season.

ROBINSON ARREST: According to multiple published reports, sophomore reserve safety Marvin Robinson will be in Washtenaw County District Court in Ypsilanti on Wednesday for a preliminary exam stemming from second-degree home invasion charges. Robinson is accused of entering another resident's dorm room at the university on Sept. 29 and stealing a video game system.

Robinson has played in five games, totaling nine tackles, and did not travel with the team to Illinois or Iowa the last two weeks.

VAN BERGEN HONORED: Senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen played arguably the best game of his career Saturday and was rewarded by collecting Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors. Van Bergen either set or tied a career best in sacks (2.5), tackles (seven), and tackles for loss (three), and was a main reason, along with tackle Mike Martin, that Illinois had negative-12 rushing yards in the first half and 37 for the game.

"I don't want to take too much personal credit for my performance," Van Bergen said. "I think coaches gave me some freedom this game to call some stunts up front that normally coaches wouldn't do. But they trusted I'm smart enough to make the right call."

There's more to the story. Van Bergen's coaches gave him those duties only after he began calling stunts without their permission. A stunt is a maneuver done by defenders who exchange roles in hopes of confusing the offensive line and creating a path to the backfield.

"We actually didn't get the green light, we just kind of started doing it," he said. "Take a risk, why not? It worked for the first two or three times and coaches were like, call them when you feel like calling them."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.



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