Michigan sideline reporter Doug Karsch witnessed the Denard Robinson-Devin Gardner combination in full effect on Saturday. He gives his observations and thoughts in this weekly TheWolverine.com exclusive.
On seeing Robinson on the field again: "It seemed like it made sense that, if he couldn't grip the ball to throw it, there were other ways to use his skill set. I'm not surprised at all that Al Borges and this staff, as soon as they got an opportunity to use him, used him.
"He's a tremendous weapon. His role has increased now, with the injury to Fitzgerald Toussaint. As soon as they broke from the sideline the first time, I saw what was happening.
"I was a little surprised at how much he played. This wasn't something they were just putting out for Ohio State to look at. This was something they clearly had big plans for.
A debate during the broadcast broke out about whether he should throw the ball, to give Ohio State something to think about, or not throw the ball, and keep that in the back pocket."
On Robinson's increased stature as a runner, given the season-ending injury to Toussaint: "They run a lot of creative formations - the inverted wishbone, the motion, and it's kind of fun to watch. This is a staff that, given the pieces they have to work with
it's really difficult to just keep inserting plays.
"You need so much repetition before you get in a game and use them. The fact that they're running so many different formations, with spread concepts, I-formation concepts, I'm impressed with their ability to install all that and have it run as smoothly as it does. That is an under-appreciated part of what this offensive staff has brought to the table.
"It's really difficult to do everything and be efficient at it. That's why teams are either spread teams or I-formation teams. It's hard to do both and be good at it, if not almost impossible."
On those who came out of the Iowa game saying Michigan should have been running Gardner at quarterback all along, with Robinson in a multi-purpose role: "I think it's great that those people knew Devin Gardner was ready long ago to do this. Because the indications I was given were that he wasn't necessarily ready to do this.
"His experience at a wide receiver spot, he keeps talking about how that helped him at quarterback. Well, there you go.
"Maybe those people are right. But I think if the people close to it saw they could win a football game and be better having Devin Gardner at quarterback, they'd have played Devin Gardner at quarterback. Coaches want to win more than fans do. Their livelihood depends on it.
"So it's not like those guys are not thinking of ways to win football games. In their judgment, that gave them the best chance to win. Now, were they wrong? Maybe. But I really don't think they were doing anything but what, in their belief, gave them the best chance to win.
"And, Gardner faces a test this week. He will not have Devin Funchess running 20 yards in the clear. He will not have Roy Roundtree getting open deep on third-and-five. He will not have guys running wide open like they were in the last few games.
"Now, Gardner hit those receivers. And throwing it to the right spot is as much of a challenge as making an accurate throw. He's definitely finding open receivers.
"I would simply suggest that the challenge this week is far greater. I remember John Navarre, early in his career, slicing up Bowling Green and Rice. Then when he had to go on the road against UCLA, it was a much different thing.
"I'm not saying Devin can't do it, and I think he very well may do it, but it's a completely different challenge this week. Alabama's defense was good, Notre Dame's defense was good, and Nebraska's defense, at home, is very good. So I'm not so sure that Devin would have done much better than Denard. But he gets a chance to prove himself this weekend, and it will be a different animal."
On whether he was near the spot when Toussaint got injured: "I wasn't. I was actually talking to Gary Moeller, but it was obvious right away it was serious. I didn't have a good angle on it, and I didn't see the bend that everybody on TV saw.
"But our producer back at our studio said there were images posted on Twitter and on the internet of his leg breaking before the next snap. So we had a pretty good indication. You could tell as he was lying on the ground that he was in some serious pain.
"When they loaded him up on the cart, the entire offensive line came over and gave him a little pep talk. It was kind of a cool moment. Those guys really wanted to let him know that they were with him, and that they'd take care of business."
On other Iowa observations: "That was an old-school Michigan muscle flexing, especially defensively. Once Greg Mattison figured out the tight end was going to play a role, they took it away. I just got the sense that Iowa stood no shot.
"I remember watching games like that in the '70s and early '80s. It's still amazing to me that they put up as many yards as they did, with the running back position what it is. It's just not a vintage Michigan rushing attack.
"They're still able to find ways to move the football. With the growing confidence in the quarterback, they very well may throw it 50 times in Columbus.
"And I want to point this out - they lost Blake Countess in week one, and they lead the country in passing defense. That is an incredible achievement. It speaks to the job Ray Taylor has done, it speaks to the job the defense staff has done.
"It also probably speaks to the fact that there are not a lot of great quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but everybody has their shot to lead the nation in pass defense. All the rest of the Big Ten teams could have, and they didn't do it."
On whether a Nebraska win at Iowa of Friday could take even a little off Michigan's emotional edge in Columbus: "It's hard for me to imagine a Brady Hoke team having the edge taken off in an Ohio State game, even if Nebraska wins. They still are playing for a BCS shot.
"The SEC has got six teams in the top 10, and four of those six are ineligible, because only two teams from the SEC can go. Suddenly, a win over Ohio State could thrust Michigan into the top 14, making them BCS eligible. It's not playing the Big Ten title card, but that's a lot to play for.
"I also like the fact that Ohio State is undefeated going into this game. That gives Michigan a little extra motivation, not that they really need it. I really don't think the Friday game will impact it much at all.
"If Iowa wins, then certainly Michigan will be jacked up. But it's hard for me to imagine them not being jacked up for this game."
On Michigan's chances in that game: "On paper, Ohio State should win. They'll be able to attack Michigan's defense the way the Wolverines have struggled this year, on the perimeter, running a lot of option. Ohio State has got the personnel to do that, which is why [freshman linebackers] James Ross and Joe Bolden may play a huge role in this game.
"Brady Hoke was on the staff in 1997, when Michigan went to the Rose Bowl and suddenly their starting linebacker Sam Sword, who was a leader on that defense, played a secondary role and they got the speed of a young Dhani Jones on the field. There might be similar circumstances this week, where James Ross' and Joe Bolden's speed from the linebacker spots becomes critical.
"I have faith that Mattison can correct issues, even though they've struggled against option offenses this year."
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