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Gardner racks up six TDs as Michigan routs Iowa

9:07 PM, Nov 17, 2012   |    comments
Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (12) passes the ball against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second quarter at Michigan Stadium. (Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE)
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ANN ARBOR (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - They left the field slowly today, each senior, trying to hold on for another moment. Kenny Demens turned around in a personal panorama, taking in all of Michigan Stadium - the fans cheering, the music playing and excitement lingering.

Denard Robinson walked with his co-captain Jordan Kovacs, saying "it's crazy" before their thoughts spun ahead to their final regular-season game next week, emotions welling up.

And Roy Roundtree, who raced full speed to the student section at the game's end, climbing the brick wall to embrace the student section, then basking in his final trip up the tunnel with all the chaos around him.

This was the day they wanted and the moment they'll remember forever, as No. 23 Michigan's 42-17 pounding of Iowa capped another incredible home season at Michigan Stadium.

Though there were close calls, Team 133's 23 seniors did not lose at Michigan in their final two seasons, finishing 14-0. While some may call that expected, to defend home turf, only one other Michigan class has done it back-to-back in the previous 35 years.

From where they came from - the three previous years featured 11 home losses - to this point, was magical.

"After the game, I didn't want to leave the stadium, I just wanted to stay," Demens said. "From where we came from and how we've come from the less successful seasons to be where we are now, it just means a lot. You can see the guys that you've grown up with. It's a great feeling."

There was so much in the Big House during coach Brady Hoke's two years - comebacks, drama, excitement, fear - but Saturday offered a new excitement.

No one knew what the Wolverines (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten Legends) had in store, because it seemed the big surprise came with Devin Gardner's emergence the past two weeks.

But on the Schembechler Hall practice fields, there was another level.

The conversation that Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges started 18 months ago hit the field today, as Robinson re-emerged after 2 1/2 games sidelined by injuries - at tailback.

With Gardner under center and Robinson in the backfield, then Robinson under center, then Robinson at wide receiver, Iowa (4-7, 2-5) had no answers.

The first drive covered 70 yards in 12 plays, with no plays over 14 yards, but two third-down conversions, ending with Gardner's 1-yard touchdown rush.

That became a familiar sight. Over the next 2 1/2 quarters, the Wolverines put on a blitz, rolling up six touchdowns in their first six possessions, each with its own drama. Gardner was the catalyst with six scores (three passing, three rushing), tying Steve Smith's Michigan record. While Robinson played off him like a maestro, leading the team in rushing with 98 yards and inspiring mass defensive confusion.

There were plays with Robinson as a back, some as a slot receiver and some with him as a wideout. On one he went from the receiver spot, caught a screen, appeared stuffed left and flew back to the right side for a 20-yard gain. There was the extremely rare double-reverse and the heavy backfield with three weapons behind Gardner.

They were magical on third and fourth down, finishing 11-for-14 with four touchdowns coming in the pressure count.

Each quarterback is his own thrill ride. Together, they were unstoppable, mostly because Robinson just wanted to be back, wherever it was.

"Anybody who knows me knows I'll do whatever for the team," Robinson said, keeping some mystery as he never attempted a pass. "I'm the kind of person, if I can go, I'm going to go. I won't hold back."

Contact Mark Snyder: msnyder@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder.

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