It's fair to say Denard Robinson has had an up-and-down career with the Michigan Wolverines. His highs have been very high, his lows have been very low and the in-between has been a panoply of productivity and highlight-reel plays on the ground and through the air.
Yet because of those lows—see his road woes of 2011, the horror show in Dallas against Alabama to start the 2012 season and his four interceptions on consecutive throws at Notre Dame—some Michigan fans have wondered whether the Wolverines should try a different look at quarterback. Maybe give Robinson some snaps at running back or receiver and see what happens. What harm could it do, right?
Should Devin Gardner have been tried at QB on Saturday?
Well, thanks to an aggravated nerve injury in his throwing arm suffered late in the first half of Saturday's game against Nebraska, we saw what Michigan's offense looks like without Denard Robinson.
And it's so much worse than anyone in Ann Arbor could have feared.
Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy came on in relief of Robinson and turned in a howler of a performance: 3-of-16 passing for 38 yards and three interceptions. Bellomy added five rushes for a grand total of zero yards. But even that doesn't do justice to how lost Michigan was without Robinson running the show.
Bellomy came into the game with a 1st-and-goal situation at the Nebraska 8-yard line. Bellomy led the offense all of one yard the rest of the way, and the drive ended with a field goal to make the game 7-6 Nebraska.
Via ESPN.com, here's what ensued.
Even the 58-yard field-goal drive isn't really a major triumph on Bellomy's part, as fully 45 of the 62 yards (it's listed as 58 by ESPN.com, but the drive went from the Michigan 21 to the Nebraska 17—that's 29 plus 33 yards) came via questionable penalties on Nebraska.
On the last drive of the game, meanwhile, Michigan did move the ball relatively well, but it was against a Nebraska defense playing a prevent shell and allowing underneath throws to keep the ball moving. Once Michigan got far enough into Husker territory that there was no more room for Nebraska to play "back," Bellomy actually tested the opposing secondary once. It was an interception.
You're probably wondering where former backup quarterback Devin Gardner was in all this. Well, obviously he was at wide receiver. But if there was any doubt that he was staying at wide receiver, this game should have proved it once and for all. That might be a disappointment for Gardner considering how much he thinks he's still a quarterback, but that's clearly a sentiment Brady Hoke doesn't share.
Here's what Hoke told Detroit Free Press writer Mark Snyder after the game:
Hoke: Gardner never an option, only if Bellomy got hurt
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) October 28, 2012
So that's that.
Even as Michigan's defense kept Nebraska in check long enough to still keep the game at 16-9 with four minutes gone in the fourth quarter, it was obvious that the Wolverines weren't going to score that game-tying touchdown on offense. Not without Denard Robinson around.
It is reasonable to think that with a week to prepare as a starter, Bellomy would do better next week than he did on Saturday. That's pretty common in college football. But there is a veritable chasm of difference between what Bellomy did on Saturday and what Robinson does every Saturday. One week of starter preparation doesn't get Bellomy—or anyone else on Michigan's roster—to the level of Robinson's play.