ANN ARBOR — The Michigan football faithful got their final impression of Denard Robinson inside of the Big House. But that contingent also saw the best of Robinson’s heir apparent.
While Robinson ended the guessing game of whether or not he would play, by rotating between tailback and running back in his final game at Michigan Stadium, Devin Gardner had his most dynamic performance in his third game this season at quarterback.
The junior, who played in Michigan’s first eight games at wide receiver, threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more in Michigan’s 42-17 win over Iowa.
“He had six touchdowns?” Michigan coach Brady Hoke asked, incredulously. “Did he really?”
No doubting was necessary.
Gardner gave Michigan a 7-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game on a one-yard touchdown run, then broke a 7-7 tie two minutes into the second quarter when he connected with Roy Roundtree for a 37-yard scoring pass.
After Mike Meyer’s field goal cut Michigan’s lead to 14-10 with 9:26 left in the first half, Gardner scored his second one-yard rushing touchdown and then found Vincent Smith for an 18-yard scoring pass to help the No. 23 Wolverines (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten Conference) take a 28-10 lead at the half.
“It was a great game,” said Gardner, who added a rushing touchdown and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess in the third quarter. “The line blocked well, we ran the ball well, Denard ran well, Roy caught the ball well, and every receiver that caught the ball, they caught it on tough downs.”
Gardner finished with 314 yards on 18-of-23 passing, and the Wolverines confounded the Hawkeyes (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten) with a backfield rotation that included Robinson, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Thomas Rawls, who combined for 151 yards on 24 carries.
Iowa gave up 505 yards of offense through the first three quarters and scored two touchdowns: Henry Krieger Coble’s 16-yard pass from James Vandenberg (19 for 26 passing, 181 yards) with 1:44 left in the first quarter and Mark Weisman’s 13-yard reception with 2:12 left in the game. Between those two touchdowns, the Hawkeyes gave up 35 points and gained only 164 total yards in the first three quarters.
“There were clearly not a lot of positives on our side of the ball,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whose team will not play in a postseason bowl for the first time since 2007. “We saw good things on special teams and from our offense, at times.
“Defensively, we didn't have answers for their attack. It became apparent pretty quickly.”
But the afternoon was marred by the loss of Toussaint, who injured his left leg when he was tackled and went down awkwardly inside the 15-yard line by the Iowa sideline.
Medical personnel stabilized Toussaint’s left leg and took him off the field on a stretcher and on a cart, and ESPN reported that Toussaint had been taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center.
After the game, Hoke said Toussaint was undergoing surgery. The second-year coach would not elaborate further on Toussaint’s status or the extent of his injury, on the basis that he wanted to make sure Toussaint’s mother had been contacted in regard to her son.
“It was heartbreaking to see Fitz in so much pain,” Gardner said. “Fitz is a really tough guy, and I’ve never seen his face grimacing like that. I just pray that he’ll be all right. And I just prayed, instantly. As soon as I saw him down, I just started to pray."
After Toussaint was taken off the field, Gardner found a rhythm with receivers Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon, and Robinson rotated between handing off from quarterback and carrying the ball at tailback as Michigan’s offense ran through the Hawkeyes. Gallon had a career-best 133 yards on five catches, while Roundtree had 83 yards on five catches, including his second-quarter touchdown.
Robinson, meanwhile, finished with 98 yards on 13 carries to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season. Robinson was part of a rushing attack that outgained Iowa 199-128, and he reached the mark despite missing Michigan’s last two games because of an injury to the ulnar nerve in his right arm.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.