Michigan still needs wins, luck to win division title

Hoke says Robinson should play next game

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, left, and quarterback Denard Robinson, right, need to end the season strong and hope Nebraska stumbles to win the Legends Division.
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, left, and quarterback Denard Robinson, right, need to end the season strong and hope Nebraska stumbles to win the Legends Division.

MINNEAPOLIS — There’s no cer­tainty that Mich­i­gan watched the fourth quar­ter of Ne­braska’s last-minute win at Mich­i­gan State.

By the time Ne­braska quar­ter­back Tay­lor Mar­ti­nez con­nected with Ja­mal Turner for the game-win­ning touch­down in the fi­nal sec­onds in East Lansing, Mich., the Wol­v­er­ines were al­ready on a plane back to Ann Ar­bor af­ter Satur­day’s 35-13 win at Min­ne­sota.

Both wins didn’t do much to help Mich­i­gan’s Big Ten cham­pi­on­ship hopes. The Husk­ers and the Wol­v­er­ines re­main knot­ted atop the Leg­ends Divi­sion — with Ne­braska hold­ing the tie-breaker by vir­tue of its 26-9 win over Mich­i­gan on Oct. 27 in Lin­coln, Neb.

Un­ranked in this week’s As­so­ci­ated Press top 25 poll and the USA To­day coaches poll, the Wol­v­er­ines (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) have three games left in the reg­u­lar sea­son, be­gin­ning with Satur­day’s home game against North­west­ern (7-2, 3-2). If the Wol­v­er­ines want to be in the chase for the Big Ten cham­pi­on­ship, they’ll need a win this week, and they’ll need help.

The Wol­v­er­ines will have to fo­cus on their own cause, which could come with or with­out quar­ter­back De­nard Robin­son. The se­nior sat out Satur­day’s win at Min­ne­sota, a week af­ter sus­tain­ing an in­jury to the ul­nar nerve in his right arm.

Mich­i­gan coach Brady Hoke said af­ter Satur­day’s game that he an­tic­i­pated Robin­son to re­turn this week­end — though he said the same in the days lead­ing up to the game at Min­ne­sota. Mich­i­gan an­nounced that Robin­son would not play in the fi­nal min­utes be­fore kick­off.

Devin Gard­ner, how­ever, was a for­mi­da­ble re­place­ment. In his first ap­pear­ance at quar­ter­back this sea­son af­ter play­ing in Mich­i­gan’s first eight games at wide re­ceiver, the ju­nior threw for 234 yards on 12 of 18 com­ple­tions for two touch­downs and ran for 21 yards and a touch­down. It was Mich­i­gan’s first game with a touch­down since Oct. 13.

“It didn’t sur­prise us,” Hoke said of Gard­ner’s tran­si­tion. “We gave him a lot of snaps. He’s been in the of­fense enough, knows most of it, I would say, or all of it. Be­ing a re­ceiver, that’s a whole dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. I think that helped with some de­vel­op­ment. I think he did a nice job with the team.”

Gard­ner said af­ter the game that he spent the week pre­par­ing as if he was go­ing to start at quar­ter­back and drew from his ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing at wide re­ceiver.

“At re­ceiver, you know what kind of balls you don’t like,” Gard­ner said. “It re­ally helps in prac­tice be­cause you throw a bad ball and you have to re-do it, and you get re­ally tired re-run­ning routes. A quar­ter­back doesn't re­ally get tired be­cause he's only drop­ping back. It just helps me ap­pre­ci­ate what they do.

“I’ve played quar­ter­back, so I felt good.”

Gard­ner also leaned on Robin­son, who was dressed and on the side­lines at Min­ne­sota.

“He talked to me all week, and he’s a great team­mate,” Gard­ner said. “He felt like he was down, and some­one was go­ing have to step up, and I just thank him for that. He was in my head the whole game, tell­ing me what he saw and ev­ery­thing, con­grat­u­lat­ing me, and af­ter I threw an in­ter­cep­tion, he made sure he kept me up.”

As the sea­son gets shorter, the ques­tion be­comes, will Robin­son be in the hud­dle this week­end?

“I’m very op­ti­mis­tic,” Hoke said.

Con­tact Rachel Lenzi at:


419-724-6510 or on

Twit­ter @RLen­ziBlade.