QB Devin Gardner ties Michigan record with 6 touchdowns against Iowa
ANN ARBOR -- Devin Gardner accounted for six touchdowns against Iowa, tying a Michigan record, and made it look easy.
So easy, in fact, that his coach didn't even realize it.
"He had six touchdowns? Did he really?" Brady Hoke said, when asked about his quarterback. "See, I don't remember that stuff.
"That's pretty good."
Gardner, starting at quarterback for the injured Denard Robinson, guided Michigan to a 42-17 trouncing of the Hawkeyes. He was 18-of-23 passing for 314 yards, the first time a Michigan quarterback surpassed 300 yards through the air in 17 games.
Gardner ripped Iowa's defense methodically, engineering touchdown drives of 70, 79, 75, 87, 81 and 60 yards to open the game. And he had a hand in each of the scores.
He scored touchdowns on a pair of 1-yard runs and a 3-yard run, as well as hooked with receiver Roy Roundtree for a 37-yard pass, tailback Vincent Smith for 18 yards and tight end Devin Funchess for 29 yards.
"(Gardner) does a nice job," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He is elusive back there, tough to bring down and tough to contain, first of all. You think you have got him, and he buys time.
"They've got very good skilled players and they have had that traditionally. It looks to me that they've got it again."
Gardner was aided against Iowa by the return of Robinson, who lined up at tailback, receiver and even quarterback throughout the game. He rushed for a team-high 98 yards, production Michigan needed after Fitz Toussaint left with a leg injury that required immediate surgery.
He also caught two passes for 24 yards.
"They had no idea what was going to come," Gardner said. "They though they knew, they'd always yell out, 'Denard's in the game!' but they didn't know what kind of play we were going to run."
Gardner backed up Robinson at quarterback the past two years, but moved to wideout to begin the season. He slid back to quarterback when Robinson injured his throwing elbow against Nebraska.
His three-game stint has been, at times, brilliant.
Gardner, who is 3-0 as the starter, has completed 46-of-70 passes (65.7 percent) for 834 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His average of 278.0 passing yards per game exceeds all but one of Robinson's starts this year, and would lead the Big Ten if he qualified for the rankings.
He's making players around him better, too.
The receivers as a unit have posted their three best games of the season with Gardner, and Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon in particular have benefited from the change.
Roundtree has back-to-back five-catch games, after getting no more than three in the first eight games. He has 286 yards in three games with Gardner, after tallying 175 in the first eight games.
Gallon had a career-best seven catches against Northwestern, then added a career-best 133 yards on five catches against Iowa. He has 474 yards with Gardner, after gaining 318 in the first eight.
"I really enjoy it because I always thought of myself as a quarterback," Gardner said. "And honestly, I never knew how I would perform either, just like you guys. So it's just refreshing to know I can play quarterback at Michigan."
Gardner wasn't without fault. He tossed an ill-advised pick in the fourth quarter, ending Michigan's string of six consecutive touchdown drives to begin the game.
He's tossed a pick like that in each of his first three starts, the marks of a young quarterback.
But he's also contained his mistakes, and strung together enough big plays to render them irrelevant.
"I get coached up on everything I did wrong and I try not to make the same mistake," Gardner said. "Of course you're going to make new mistakes, like today I threw a pick on a cover-2 corner that I should have saw.
"Those are new mistakes I just can't let happen again."