Gardner likely suffered the injury on the second drive of the third quarter against the Buckeyes. He ran the ball on a third-and-10 play and was tackled by Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Armani Reeves. Consequently, he fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Ohio State. The replay of that hit shows that Gardner’s left foot was trapped under Shazier as he planted his foot and was then twisted when Reeves came in to assist Shazier. The pain of breaking his foot may have caused him to drop the ball. Gardner was seen limping once he got up, but didn’t seem to be too bothered by it as he led Michigan on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
The call by Hoke to go for two after the Wolverines scored in the final seconds is now put into perspective. He opted to pass the ball instead of run it in, which we now know could likely have been because of Gardner’s foot injury. The pass was intercepted in the end zone, sealing the win for Ohio State. Gardner’s injury likely cost them the upset of the Buckeyes since he wasn’t mobile enough to run it in himself.
Gardner will have to sit out the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday against the Kansas State Wildcats because of his injury. Freshman quarterback Shane Morris will start in his place.
I had previously written about how Gardner would be the key to Michigan’s postseason success if he was able to have a good game passing the ball. Michigan doesn’t seem to have much of a chance against Kansas State with Gardner out. He is essentially their passing and running game since the Wolverines’ running backs have struggled all season. Without him, the offense may be in big trouble. Their only hope is for Morris to have a good game and for their defense to stop Kansas State.
The Wolverines have a difficult task ahead of them, but if they can pull it off, then they can end a disappointing season on a very good note.