Devin Gardner accounted for six touchdowns to help No. 23 Michigan rout Iowa 42-17 Saturday.
The Wolverines (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten) weren’t stopped on offense by the hapless Hawkeyes (4-7, 2-5) until Gardner threw an interception early in the fourth quarter.
Gardner threw three touchdowns and ran for three scores. He became the first Michigan quarterback to account for six TDs since 1983, when Steve Smith had as many passing and rushing scores in a game at Minnesota.
Denard Robinson played after missing two-plus games with nerve damage in his right elbow. Robinson started at running back and took some snaps at QB, but didn’t throw a pass.
Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint appeared to break his left leg on his team’s first drive.
The Wolverines didn’t need Toussaint to beat Iowa, but it will be more difficult to beat Ohio State for a second straight year without him next week.
It looked as if Toussaint’s left leg snapped – between his ankle and knee – on his third carry when he was tackled by two Hawkeyes on Michigan’s first drive after getting an option pitch from Robinson. Toussaint was carted off the field with his left leg in a brace.
The Wolverines did what they wanted through the air and on the ground against the Hawkeyes.
Gardner was 18-of-23 for 314 yards with touchdown passes to Roy Roundtree, Vincent Smith and Devin Funchess. Gardner ran for 37 yards, scoring on three short runs to lead a barrage of points that finally ended late in the third quarter.
Robinson ran 13 times for 98 yards, including a 40-yard sprint that included quite a juke along the sideline in the senior’s last home game.
The Hawkeyes were officially eliminated from postseason contention by losing five straight games – for the first time since 2000. They’ll need to upset Nebraska next week to avoid their longest losing skid since losing the last eight games of the 1999 season, which was Kirk Ferentz’s first season as head coach.
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has publicly supported Ferentz, who he gave a 10-year extension before the 2010 season.
Michigan, meanwhile, has a shot to have a second straight double-digit win season in Brady Hoke’s second season in charge of college football’s winningest program.
The Wolverines, though, need to beat the Buckeyes on the road and hope the Hawkeyes can stun the Cornhuskers next week at home to earn a spot in the Big Ten title game to have a chance to end an eight-year drought without a conference championship.
Michigan has found a QB to help it close out this season and to give the program high hopes for next year.
The Wolverines – and their fans – have only one game in mind.
Early in the fourth quarter, the crowd at the Big House started to chant: ”Beat O-HI-O! Beat O-HI-O!”
Like Hoke, maize-and-blue clad fans don’t say ”State” when referring to the rival Buckeyes.
The Hawkeyes got running back Mark Weisman, who had been out with a groin injury, back on the field and he ran for 63 yards on 16 carries. Weisman also caught a 13-yard TD pass from James Vandenberg late in the game, but that didn’t make the score look much more respectable.
Vandenberg, who was 19 of 26 for 181 yards, threw a 16-yard Henry Krieger-Coble that made it 7-7 late in the first quarter in a game that the Wolverines led 28-10 at halftime.
Gardner’s third rushing TD and third passing score made it 42-10 after three quarters.