Nov. 21, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The featured back question surrounding the Iowa program has made its way to Ann Arbor. Sort of.
Michigan found a complement to fifth-year senior Fitz Troussaint last week at Northwestern. Troussaint missed the game with a concussion and freshmen Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith stepped up for a combined 120 rushing yards in his absence.
Their production created a situation similar to Iowa's three-headed backfield. But, unlike Iowa, there is no question who will lead Michigan's ground game.
"One thing we know is they have an outstanding quarterback," UI defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Thursday after practice. "Devin Gardner is a really good player. He's elusive and he can throw the ball. The three running backs they have are very good, and they're talented at the receiver. It will definitely be a challenge. They have a good offense and we know they'll play hard."
Michigan is coming off an impressive victory on the road. The Wolverines were kept out of the endzone for four quarters at Northwestern, but an improbable field goal as time expired sent the game to overtime. Touchdowns weren't a problem from there.
Gardner hit Jake Butt for an 11-yard touchdown in the first overtime, and rushed for a 5-yard score in the third overtime. He also converted the two-point attempt.
"Obviously we want to contain him and keep him under control," said Parker. "You look at couple teams and they've put some pressure on him. That doesn't always fit our system, so it's going to be a challenge to try to contain him."
That containment starts up front and works from the outside in. Drew Ott has started every game for Iowa this year at left end, and Mike Hardy is in line to make his fourth straight start in place of Dominic Alvis at right end.
The pair combined for 4.5 tackles for loss in Iowa's win at Purdue.
"Mike Hardy is a tough, smart, hard-nosed kid," said Parker. "He continues to improve, and when young guys have an opportunity, it's a chance to just keep getting better. I think that's what he's doing. He's taking advantage of the situation."
The Hawkeyes and Wolverines are both 3-3 in Big Ten play and tied for fourth in the Legends Division. Kickoff on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium is at 11:01 a.m. (CT). BTN will televise the game.