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Run game is Gardner’s “best friend” (w/video)
This story originally published on
Posted Nov 19, 2012
Despite the season ending injury to junior running back Fitz Toussaint, the Michigan offense is fully utilizing play action to open up the passing game. With a dangerous Denard Robinson in the backfield, more could be on the way.
accounted for all six of Michigan’s touchdowns in Saturday’s 42-17 win over Iowa, the junior quarterback finds it puzzling that he’s receiving the bulk of attention for the recent offensive outbursts that includes an average of nearly 40 points per contest since making his first career start under center at Minnesota.
“That’s all I’m doing is what its asking me to do,” said Gardner. “The line is blocking great. All of the touchdowns were like three yards or below so it really wasn’t like I did much; I just did what I was supposed to do. Rawls got us down there, the line blocked for him so I don’t understand why I’m getting that much (credit) if I just ran for one yard.”
Offensively, the two victories over Minnesota and Northwestern looked relatively normal to the untrained eye. Michigan threw the ball, ran the ball and was efficient on third downs as well as in the red zone.
Saturday against Iowa the offense was anything but a run of the mill attack, with senior
debuting as a running back, slot receiver, and, most importantly for Gardner, a decoy.
“I feel like I did a really good job,” said Gardner. “Not just when Denard had the ball—of course he made big plays, but when he didn’t have the ball we had even bigger plays. Just the attention that he gets is amazing and it just helps us succeed.”
With Fitz Toussaint going down with an injury in the first quarter, Robinson ran the ball 13 times for 98 yards, giving the Iowa defense more than enough to think about with the speed and elusiveness he brings to the table. Factor in Gardner’s natural ability to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers, and the Wolverines have a recipe that allows for effective and useful play action situations they’ve been able to take advantage of.
“Play action is always good for a quarterback, it’s my best friend,” said Gardner. “The running game is my best friend, ‘cause if we’re running the ball well we’ll be able to throw the ball well off play action and have those linebackers scoot up a little bit.”
If Gardner hopes to continue this recent trend against
Saturday, another running back will need to be ready to step in. Sophomore
ran the ball 8 times for 22 yards against Iowa while
carried it just three times for a total of 9 yards. Most of that responsibility could fall on the shoulders of Denard Robinson who Brady Hoke said Monday is close to 100 percent, but Gardner has faith in all of the tailbacks.
Not only Will Gardner need to have faith in those around him, the confidence in himself must continue.
The first and only time Gardner made the trip to Columbus for the Michigan/Ohio State game was as a freshman watching from the sidelines. This time around Gardner will be required to do a little more than hold a clipboard as the Wolverines look to ruin the Buckeyes perfect season and possibly win the Legends Division in the process, should Nebraska fall at Iowa Friday afternoon.
“Last time I went down there I was a freshman and I watched from the sideline obviously, and it was an amazing environment,” said Gardner. “The entire time, although we lost and we were losing and things like that, I just couldn’t wait to get the opportunity to be a key element in the rivalry. Its going to be exciting.”
To watch video of Gardner from Monday’s press conference, press play below.
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