Reader mail: On Gardner, Buckeyes & the refs

You have questions and, as usual, I have answers. Many of you are curious about Michigan and what it has to do to win the Legends. And how about Devin Gardner? Plus, some Michigan State fans are still riled up about the officiating in the Spartans’ loss to Nebraska. Let’s get started.

What does Michigan have to do, to get to Indianapolis? – Kyle Johnson

It’s pretty simple. While Michigan and Nebraska are each 4-1 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines’ loss at Nebraska on Oct. 27 put the Cornhuskers in control in the Legends Division. That means Michigan must win out against Northwestern and Iowa at home, and at Ohio State. And the Wolverines also need Nebraska to stumble at least once down the stretch vs. Penn State or Minnesota at home, or at Iowa. Bottom line: If the Cornhuskers get by the Nittany Lions this Saturday in Lincoln, you have to like their chances to win out.

Did you like the way that Devin Gardner passed the ball around to many receivers against Minnesota? He showed up on Saturday after he got rid of the jitters in the first quarter. – James Bock

Yes, I was impressed with how Gardner settled down after the first quarter. He ended up hitting 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and pick. He also ran for 21 yards and score. Five different Wolverines caught passes, too, as Gardner had nice field vision in the 35-13 win. Too bad he wasn’t ready to go at Nebraska when Denard Robinson went down with injury.

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Yes, it was a nice win for Michigan, but I’m not buying in about Devin Gardner. After all, he did this against Minnesota. What can he do vs. Northwestern this week? – Scott Schlaack

True, Minnesota doesn’t have the same defense as Alabama’s, but it still is a solid unit that ranks No. 6 in the Big Ten (343.6 ypg). And the Gopher pass defense is No. 3 in the conference (168.1 ypg). So give Gardner some credit. But I think Michigan needs to get Denard Robinson back in the lineup soon for the stretch run. I just think his experience and savvy will pay dividends, especially in that season-ending trip to Ohio State. Brady Hoke has said he expects Robinson to play this week against Northwestern, but we shall see. He said the same thing prior to last week’s game at Minnesota, too.

Ohio State should return the majority of its starters in 2013. Do you think the preseason polls for next year will feature Alabama No. 1 and Ohio State No. 2? – Kevin

Hey, I like to look ahead as much as the next guy. But let’s finish this season first! The Buckeyes should be in a good position to start high in the polls in 2013. Players like quarterback Braxton Miller, running back Carlos Hyde and almost the entire line will be back on offense. On defense, cornerback Travis Howard and lineman John Simon are the key seniors to be replaced. Bottom line: A lot of key players will be back for what looks like a top 5 preseason team.

Do you have a comment for us regarding the officiating in Nebraska’s 28-24 win at Michigan State? – Peter Hoholik

I know there are some Michigan State fans who weren’t happy with some of the calls in their game with Nebraska, especially the late pass interference penalty that set up the Cornhuskers’ game-winning touchdown. But the conclusion I have come to after years of watching games is this: officials never determine the outcome of a game. Nope. Whenever there is an issue with a team (or person, for that matter), the first place to look for blame is within. Michigan State didn’t play well enough to win. Period. End of story. The Spartans allowed 473 yards of offense, with 313 coming on the ground. That’s 7.8 yards per carry. Maybe if MSU had played better on defense, it wouldn’t have been in a position to let the officials’ calls impact the game. Also, Andrew Maxwell hit just 9-of-27 passes for 123 yards. He could have played better. So, it wasn’t the refs who cost Michigan State the game. It’s Michigan State which cost Michigan State the game.

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Even if Nebraska wins out, the Huskers can’t continue to commit the stupid mistakes they are committing if they hope to win a big bowl game. – Dee

I agree. I think every Nebraska fan agrees, too. To wit: The Cornhuskers have lost a Big Ten-high 23 turnovers. Fourteen of those have been fumbles lost. And only two Big Ten teams (Minnesota and Ohio State) commit more penalties per game than the Cornhuskers’ 6.9 per contest. The Huskers need to get this stuff buttoned up. Now. senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (23 Comments)
Jeff on 11/7/2012 @ 3:09pm EDT Said:

Michigan State lost by 4. The refs stole 7 points from MSU. Perhaps it’s time to take a remedial math class.

adam on 11/7/2012 @ 4:25pm EDT Said:

MSU didn’t play well enough to win!?? They led by 17 in the 4th qtr. Until the refs decided to take over. The stripes absolutely stole that game from the Spartans. Comments like yours Tom continue the attitude that officials can blow highly subjective calls and not have to explain them or be held accountable. What other profession besides weatherman allows this? Whining over calls may be usually trivial but when it directly affects the winner of the game and they were the wrong calls, it should be up to the refs or B1G to explain.

Dave on 11/7/2012 @ 5:04pm EDT Said:

” But the conclusion I have come to after years of watching games is this: officials never determine the outcome of a game.”

Really? You don’t think a terrible Pass Interference call late in the 4th Quarter on 4th Down didn’t help determine the ND-Pitt game? Look at Stanford-ND in Overtime this year with the Touchdown not called. Look at the Hail Mary last year with MSU.

Mike on 11/7/2012 @ 6:35pm EDT Said:

As I recall, MSU was given 7 points after converting on a 4th down that they called a late hit on NU when the NU player was actually pushed into the runner out of bounds. There were also pass interference calls that were questionable against NU that kept more than one MSU drive alive (just because they weren’t the last penalty of the game doesn’t make them less important). There were bad calls on both sides. I am afraid there may be a lot of this in the PSU game because NU’s pass defense is aggressive, this is how teams played in the Big 12 but the Big 10 refs are not accustomed to this, they have to learn to just let them play.

Doug on 11/7/2012 @ 7:23pm EDT Said:

Of course Tom sticks up for the refs, shocker. Even the Michigan fans are agreeing with MSU Fans on this one. 3 horrible 15 yard penalties called on MSU directly affected the outcome of the game.

Zack Johnson on 11/7/2012 @ 8:22pm EDT Said:

The call on Adams that negated the INT was the correct call. You can not throw that type of block in today’s game, especially since Bell wasn’t making a serious attempt at running down the field. There’s also the fact that he was blind sided. You shouldn’t whine about the call, because it will be called 10/10 times if seen (and it was), you should instead ask why Adams felt the need to throw that block when he was trailing the play by 20-30 yards.

The PI call was a bad call, but it was consistent to what the refs were calling the whole game. MSU had 2 TD drives that were extended by ticky-tack calls (2 PIs and the push in the back that led to the late hit out of bounds).

It was a poorly reffed game all around. on 11/7/2012 @ 8:37pm EDT Said:

We can all agree that the interference call against MS in the endzone was questionable. But think about this MS had the ball on 3rd down when without a question Stafford was pushed into the player and recieved the personal foul. Had that been called correctly and MS kicked a field goal, at the time of the pass interference NE would have been up 21 to 20 and would not have needed to score to win. So get over it and look at it from all sides.

LukeinNE on 11/7/2012 @ 8:39pm EDT Said:

Good lord the Sparty fans need to get over it. The Huskers statistically dominated the game, and you’re flatly delusional if you think the referees didn’t do some major damage to Nebraska earlier in the game with terrible calls.

Paul on 11/7/2012 @ 8:45pm EDT Said:

If you guys were watching the first half Nebraska got screwed several times that set up Michigan state scores. You guys lost and can’t let it go. There were several late hit calls on Mich st that were legit, the hit on Bell on the return was the right call (he was no where near the play and wasnt even trying to make it down the field), a missed helmet to helmet hit on Taylor as well as the one that got called, and we got called for 2 bogus PI calls as well. Everyone I was watching the game with at one point thought that we were actually getting screwed on the calls, not you guys. Officiating is a 2 way street, you win some you lose some but at the end of the day you have to let it go.

Alex on 11/7/2012 @ 9:53pm EDT Said:

If you aren’t good enough to overcome a bad call, you don’t deserve to win.

Hans67 on 11/7/2012 @ 11:52pm EDT Said:

Lot of confusion about the impact of the out-of-bounds penalty. Michigan State had the ball on Nebraska’s 11 with 2nd down and 8. Maxwell rolled out to the right and gained three yards before running out of bounds. Without the penalty Michigan State was facing 3rd down and five. With the penalty (a poor call) the ball was moved half the distance to the goal giving MSU a first down on Nebraska’s 4 yard line. Michigan State scored two plays later. A bad call but hardly the equal of a poor call on a 95 yard pick 6.

Doug on 11/8/2012 @ 9:58am EDT Said:

Ummmm you’re crazy if you think Adams hit was illegal, just on the previous interception, Bell tackled Dennard on his other pick, so what makes you think he wouldn’t have caught up to Dennard and tackled him, especially since he had to stop and go several times? MSU would have been up 31-14 and the game would have been over, so to say that NEB had some bad calls go against them too doesn’t add up to the 7 taken off the board against MSU and the 7 for NEB. NEB definitely got the bigger benefit of the bad calls. You guys failed to mention when Maxwell got tackled late in the game that was definitely a helmet to helmet(unlike the one called against MSU earlier in the game when T-MART got hit no where near the head and they called it) which would have kept MSU’s last drive going and NEB would never have gotten the ball back.

    Zack on 11/8/2012 @ 1:40pm EDT Said:

    And you’re crazy for still arguing it. It’s the fact that Bell was trailing the play by about 20 yards and not making a hard attempt at chasing. IF bell was closer to the play then that block is legal. You’re also neglecting the fact that Bell was running the same route/in the same area on Dennard’s first int, which led to the tackle. He was on the other side of the field on this play. Ask why Adams felt the need to throw a block the way he did instead of just engaging Bell if he was worried about Bell catching him from behind. Bottom line is if you throw the block like Adams did, you’re going to get a penalty.

Scott on 11/8/2012 @ 12:09pm EDT Said:

I agree that officiating should never be the excuse as to why a team either wins or loses, but the officiating in this game was atrocious…and it definitely went both ways. The BIG 10 needs to hold its officials accountable, just like the coaches, players and administrations are held accountable. This mess must get cleaned up before it really costs a team something very meaningful down the road.

Josh on 11/8/2012 @ 1:25pm EDT Said:

Michigan State had 2 touchdown drives happen because of a late hit call on 3rd down and a pass interference call on 3rd and 11. Both teams got jobbed on calls going both ways.

Doug on 11/8/2012 @ 4:15pm EDT Said:

OK Zack, next time Adams can just ask Bell not to chase Dennard, this is football, and that was a real weak call. 31-14 and the game is over, but the P.I. call might have been even worse.

    Zack on 11/8/2012 @ 6:08pm EDT Said:

    It’s not that at all. It’s the way that he blocked Bell, there was absolutely no need for Bell to be blocked that way if he was 20 yards behind the play and halfway across the field. Unnecessary roughness. Adams put himself in a postion to have a penalty called on him, that’s his fault. With the emphasis on player safety you can’t T off a guy in that position (again 20 yards behind the play and about or more than halfway across the field).

Doug on 11/8/2012 @ 8:42pm EDT Said:

Zach, it’s football. With Bell’s speed and with Dennard having to stop and go to elude tacklers, I have no doubt Bell would have caught up to him with Adams blocking him. Come on bud, it was a clean hit, didn’t hit him too high or too low, it was solid.

    Zack on 11/8/2012 @ 9:53pm EDT Said:

    I know it’s football but you can’t do a hit like that when the player is trailing the play by 20 yards in today’s game with all the emphasis on player safety. Bell was never in the play from the very start and Adams got called for what amounted two unnecessary roughness. If a Nebraska player had done that play, after the initially being mad at the refs, I would question the need of making that stupid decision. But it sounds like Adams is getting a pass because it was a “bad” call.

Doug on 11/9/2012 @ 12:13pm EDT Said:

If it would have been a high or low hit, that’s one thing, but it was a solid legal hit, and bell would have caught up to dennard, that adams would have been asked why he let a guy fly by him instead of blocking him, just another bad call in a game of bad calls for both teams really.

Travis on 11/9/2012 @ 1:56pm EDT Said:

MSU fans….GET OVER IT!!! You got bad calls that went your way in that game too. Stop complaining and go on. Nebraska is a much better team

Doug on 11/9/2012 @ 3:41pm EDT Said:

travis, NEB is a much better team? So MSU would have been up 31-14 if not for a horrible call, yeah they’re a whole lot better, next time try to keep up.

sbuel2 on 11/12/2012 @ 11:14pm EDT Said:

I think that Adams was covering Bell the entire game and you have to admit his flop that was originally flagged and then waved off might have given the ref a mindset so what looked bad, like his arm on Bells chest while Bell is falling down was probably enough to draw the foul. By the way Adams’ flop was Number 1 on ESPN Funnies plays of the week on Saturday morning. He seemed to be the agreessor pushing Bell and when Bell put up his hands for some space, took an overly dramatic flop that was flagged. Pretty funny how long it took him to fall down and so dramatic, is he a theater major?

There were bad calls the entire game on both sides of the coin. Adams was doing his fair share of pushing and shoving the entire game but the flop???? I believe the ref was human and if you watched the video the hand seemed to be a push from one direction.

You have to play the entire game and not whine about the refs. They are the one thing you cannot change. If your player has been acting throughout the game, anything questionable at the end will be called.