Michigan Football: If Denard Is Healthy, Should Brady Hoke Keep Gardner at QB?

Martin SondermannAnalyst IINovember 10, 2012

November 10, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) passes the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Quarterback Denard Robinson was on the sidelines for the second Saturday in a row as the Wolverines took on Northwestern in Ann Arbor.

Robinson has been out since the second quarter of the Nebraska game on October 27 with what is being described as an injury to the ulna nerve in his throwing arm. However, it appears that his return isn't as urgent as some might have thought.

Against Minnesota on November 3, the once-backup quarterback, then wide receiver and now starting quarterback Devin Gardner, was asked to step up and save the Wolverines' season. He did just that.

In the game against the Golden Gophers, Gardner completed 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also added a rushing touchdown and 21 rushing yards as Michigan topped Minnesota 35-13.

So what would Devin Gardner do for an encore? He would simply top his previous performance.

Against Northwestern, Gardner completed 16-of-29 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and a single interception. He added 47 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as he led Michigan to a 38-31 overtime win over the Wildcats.

To say he was impressive Saturday doesn't seem nearly adequate enough, considering how important this game was for the Wolverines. Michigan is right back in the Big Ten title mix after back-to-back wins against conference opponents.

However, Gardner's' impressive performance over the last two weeks probably leaves a rather heavy question hovering in the mind of head coach Brady Hoke.

If Denard Robinson is deemed able to play next week against Iowa, should Hoke put the game in his hands? Or, should the spark of Michigan's offense, Devin Gardner, keep the reigns?

If you ask Gardner, and someone did, he would say the job belongs to Denard.

In an article posted on Mlive.com, Kyle Meinke quotes Devin Gardner and his response to the question of whether he should be the starter or not. Gardner said:

This is Denard's team, and it's always going to be Denard's team until he's gone... He's done way too much for two games to change that. I feel like I just have to do what I have to do to help the team.

As a starter, Robinson is 5-3 (3-1 in the Big Ten). However, that one loss was to Nebraska, which was the game he left in the second quarter with injury.

However, in eight games this season, Robinson has completed just 89 of his 166 passes, which is a disappointing 53.6 percent completion rate, and he has only thrown nine touchdowns, a total that he has matched with interceptions. That is just over one touchdown and one interception per game.

Gardner, hasn't been a lot better when it comes to completion percentage. He has completed 28-of-47 passes in his two starts for a completion percentage of 59.5. However, he has thrown four touchdowns and just two interceptions in his two starts.

The big "however" here is noticed when you look at what Robinson has done on the ground. He has rushed 131 times for 946 yards and six touchdowns. That is a staggering 118.25 yards per game and a 7.22 average yards per carry.

Gardner can't match Robinson on the ground, and it isn't even close.

So, what will head coach Brady Hoke do? Perhaps a two-pronged approach?

This would allow Robinson to ease his way back from injury, and it would be difficult for Iowa to prepare for that kind of offense.

Or, will Hoke decide to keep Gardner in the mix as the starter hoping that the passing game and momentum generated the past two weeks will continue?

Or, a third option: Will the Michigan head coach decide to simply allow Robinson back as the starter and hope the team responds?

It seems the most reasonable approach would be the first option. Allowing both players to showcase their talents and make it difficult for the Hawkeyes to adjust.

Whatever happens, if the Wolverines win, Hoke will look like a genius. However, if they lose, the second guessing will be at record levels.