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Michigan Football: 10 Things We Learned from Wolverines' Win vs. Iowa

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIDecember 8, 2016

Michigan Football: 10 Things We Learned from Wolverines' Win vs. Iowa

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    Devin Gardner proved that he deserves to be the Michigan Wolverines' starting quarterback, starting next year, of course.

    Or while Denard Robinson remains injured, whichever happens first.

    Gardner accounted for six touchdowns (three rushing, three passing) Saturday during Michigan's 42-17 pummeling of the Iowa Hawkeyes at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

    The junior threw for a career-high 314 yards while headling a Michigan offense that scored at will.

    Robinson showed that he could do well in a limited role, rushing for 98 yards while Gardner spread the ball around to receivers Jeremy Gallon (5-133) and Roy Roundtree (5-83, TD), who accounted for more than 200 yards receiving and a score.

    Iowa's defense was no match for Michigan, and its offense struggled mightily. Not having receivers Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley contribute certainly hindered the Hawkeyes' point production.

    It was a resounding triumph for Michigan (8-3, 6-1), which still has its eyes on a Big Ten Legends Division title, but undisciplined mistakes and questionable personnel decisions raised questions that need answers.

    Why were starters left in during the fourth quarter? What if Gardner fumbled that ball after scrambling from the goal line?

    Feel free to leave comments about those topics, as well as the others we'll cover in the Senior Day edition of "what we learned."

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

1. Devin Gardner's Explosiveness Is Hard to Match

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    Denard Robinson is the more exciting athlete, but that doesn't mean Devin Gardner isn't as close to world-class as it gets.

    The junior can run, throw and has a knack for making defenders look incredibly foolish (evidenced by his scrambles this season, particularly Saturday against Iowa).

    Michigan will miss Robinson, a senior who played his final game at The Big House on Saturday, but it will continue to have an explosive quarterback in Gardner, who will be a senior next fall.

    Gardner's career-high 314 yards in Michigan's 42-17 win over Iowa were impressive, sure.

    But remember, he benefited from facing a subpar Hawkeyes defense. His first three starts have resulted in wins, so it's hard to deny that he's a winner and capable of developing into a better athlete come next season.

    It's not often a school has two mobile quarterbacks who change games. Michigan got lucky when landing Robinson, a former Florida commitment, and Gardner, whose arm could make him a Heisman contender in 2013 if he continues his high level of play.

2. Fitz Toussaint's Subpar Year Likely Ends with Injury

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    If his ankle is as bent up as the photo suggests, Fitz Toussaint played in his last game of the 2012 season on Saturday.

    Toussaint went out in the second quarter after being hit by Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey, who delivered several blows to Wolverines during his team's loss.

    Warning: The video may be gruesome for younger children, but it shows Toussaint's ankle being bent in an awkward manner. He was carted off the field by medical personnel and then taken to a local hospital.

    His condition was "good," according to an ESPN sideline report during the televised game.

    If his ankle is broken, Toussaint would end his subpar year on a sour note. Just last week, he rushed for a season-high 92 yards in Michigan's 38-31 overtime win over the Northwestern Wildcats.

    Seeing guys go down with an injury is never a pretty sight. Hopefully, for Toussaint's sake, the injury is minor.

3. Iowa Can't Takes Hits from Michigan Teams

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    What was with the roughing call?

    Jordan Kovacs' hit on Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg in the second quarter appeared clean and legal to just about everyone who saw it—well, those who weren't Iowa fans, that is.

    In 2009, Michigan State's Jeremy Ware absolutely lit up Iowa's Colin Sandeman with a good, old-fashioned stick. It was clean, but after Sandeman struggled on the ground, Ware was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

    While the plays were different and involved a receiver instead of a quarterback, Kovacs' hit on Vandenberg goes to show that the Hawkeyes just can't endure the heavy hits that Michigan college players deliver.

4. Mark Weisman's Return Meant Nothing for Iowa

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    Star Hawkeyes fullback Mark Weisman had a four-game streak in which he rushed for more than 100 yards this season. He gained noticed, and next thing he knew, he was among the Big Ten's rushing leaders.

    However, his ankle injury most certainly slowed him down Saturday, and he did nothing for Iowa in its 42-17 loss to Michigan.

    Since that four-game streak, Weisman has rushed for just 93 yards, including 63 on Saturday. His return was supposed to energize the Hawkeyes, but it didn't.

5. Michigan's Defense Looks Tuned, Ready for Ohio State

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    The Hawkeyes weren't expected to gain yards at will Saturday against Michigan.

    But the Wolverines did a great job limiting their offensive opportunities and pressuring quarterback James Vandenberg, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 181 yards.

    Vandenberg couldn't move the ball, and he surely couldn't make meaningful connections with his receivers.

    Michigan's Jordan Kovacs and Joe Bolden made sure Vandenberg was uncomfortable all day, chasing him down at every turn and stopping him from making drive-extending plays.

    Holding a team to 309 yards of total offense is noteworthy. Holding a team to just 17 points the game before the biggest game of the year means something, too.

6. Darryl Stonum Is a Michigan Man at Heart

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    Former Michigan Wolverines Darryl Stonum still has respect for his former teammates, evidenced by his "good luck" Tweet directed to Team 133, particularly its seniors.

    Stonum was released by Michigan last winter due to his failure to follow team rules. The story was covered from every angle, so we'll spare the specifics. Let's just say he didn't make good decisions with automobiles and alcohol while in Ann Arbor.

    Goodluck to all my homies up north today especially the seniors.

7. Roy Roundtee's Senior Year Has Been Interesting

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    Taking the past two weeks from the equation, Roy Roundtree has had just one other game in which he's caught three or more passes.

    That's not very Roundtree-like, now is it?

    It's safe to say that his recovery from knee surgery has something to do with it, but Roundtree's senior year has been mired by inconsistencies.

    However, he's always good for a big catch, which he's shown this year. He had a 37-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter that gave Michigan a 13-7 lead over Iowa. The Wolverines never looked back.

    We've discussed this topic in the past, but Roundtree consistently disappears, only to reappear with a tremendous catch that gives the Wolverines six points or a first down.

    He's been funny this year, to say the least.

8. Denard Robinson Wasn't Leaving Without a Bang

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    He's arguably one of the most exciting athletes to ever play college football.

    He's certainly been one of MIchigan's most memorable players, lumped in with a group of legendary stars who made their marks as Wolverines.

    The NCAA's third-leading rusher among quarterbacks ran for 98 yards Saturday in Michigan's 42-17 Senior Day victory over Iowa. His performance wasn't exactly "vintage Denard," but it worked.

    He didn't throw a pass, but he lined up as a receiver and quarterback en route to approaching the century mark. His 40-yard run capped the first quarter and reminded Michigan fans just how special he really is, and reminded them just how difficult he'll be to replace. 

    Juking and weaving, Robinson left a trail of Hawkeyes behind as he bounced from the left side of the field to the right, speeding down the sideline for a huge gain—although he looked a touch slow.

    Michigan will need him one more time, if he's available, this Saturday against Ohio State, which could prove to be the biggest game of his career. A win and Nebraska loss would give MIchigan a Legends Division title.

9. Is Thomas Rawls Even an Option Anymore?

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    After Fitz Toussaint left the game with an ankle injury (also called "lower extremity" by some reports), it was all but a given that sophomore Thomas Rawls would take over at running back.

    But he didn't. Not immediately, anyway.

    That was senior Vincent Smith who scored on a 18-yard touchdown pass from Devin Gardner.

    It was a wisely crafted screen pass that worked wonders.

    But Michigan's stubborn ways when deciding which backs will get carries have been as baffling as they've been disappointing.

    Rawls can run the short-yardage plays. He showed that with a near-touchdown in the second quarter. The Flint native rushed for just 22 yards on eight carries, but he is the answer to the Wolverines' running game woes.

    He just needs the ball more often. But it's easy to see why Smith was given an opportunity, even if it came by way of three totes. You have to respect the seniors.

10. Future Looks Bright, but a Somber Feeling Remains

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    The Michigan Wolverines will yet again be a team to beat in the Big Ten next season.

    But they'll have to do it without Jordan Kovacs, Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Vincent Smith and about 18 other seniors.

    That's how college football works, unfortunately. The kids are in town for four years, then they move on in their lives and/or football careers.

    Watching Robinson the past three years was great. There probably won't ever be another quarterback like him in the Big Ten. Guys like him don't grow on trees, you know.

    But with Devin Gardner looking sharper and sharper, and a solid group of young receivers returning next season, the Wolverines should be fine in the post-Denard Era.

    We'll get into that later this week and later this season. But it's something to think about until then, isn't it?

    What will Michigan football look like from here on out without guys like Robinson?

     

    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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