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October 06, 2014 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-06

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2B -- October 6, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN

ISCATAWAY - When
fans had cleared the field
and the goalposts had
finally been
returned
to their
positions
behind the
end zones,
Devin
Gardner
stood near,
the five- ALEJANDRO
yard line ZENDA
surrounded ZU1SIGA
by a
swarm of
reporters.
It was the same player who
had been the top high school
quarterback in the country and
No. 2 prospect in the state of
Michigan five years ago. Rivals
described his ceiling as "almost
limitless," and predicted he
would "be a two- to three-year
starter with all-conference and
NFL potential."
Instead, Michigan's coaches
aren't even sure Gardner is the
top quarterback on his team. He
seems to have regressed, and he
talks about his improvements
as a man instead of his
improvements as a football
player.
After a 26-24 loss to Rutgers
on=Saturday, Gardner's
Wolverines will, in all
likelihood, become the third
Michigan team
to miss a bowl
game since
1974. "I was
The
Wolverines No one
haven't beaten
a Power S get bei
conference
team this year. -
They haven't
beaten a Power 5 conference
team since Nov. 16, 2013.
(That's more than 320 days.)
They have fewer Power 5 wins
than Bowling Green and North

of his weapons, then make him
learn a newsystem before his
last season? So maybe Gardner's
struggles this year, his seven
interceptions in five starts,
weren't all that surprising after
all.
I'mno quarterbacks coach, but
I've seen what Gardner can do in
his performances against Iowa
in 2012 and Ohio State in 2013.
I've seen someone apparently
on track for all-conference
selections and NFL consideration
fail to approach those levels
under this coaching regime.
They took back their votes
of confidence for him and then
benched him, where he heard
100,000 fans applauding for his
backup starting in his place.
Though he was angry, he didn't
say a word until afterward.
"I was pissed," he recalled
Saturday. "No one wants to get
benched. But Coach Hoke said
that was best for the team, and
he's the coach."
Then Morris got hurt, and
Gardner got another chance to
start. This time, he ran with it.
Saturday's lasting image
won't be Gardner rolling out
on a naked bootleg, dodging
an unblocked safety in the
backfield and then avoiding
another defender on his way to
a 19-yard touchdown. You won't
remember the accurate pass to
Amara Darboh on third down,
which the referees and replay
ruled he dropped.
You don't get that treatment
when you're at the helm of a 2-4
team.
But football isn't just about
the man at the helm. It's about
the successes and failures
of a whole team. No one has
weathered that rollercoaster
more than Gardner.
Isn't that worth celebrating?
Ztniga can be reached
at azs@umich.edu and on
Twitter @ByAZuniga.

4
I
I
I

>
ti
n

ALLISON FA RRAND/Daily
Devin Gardner's career has seen position changes and ups and downs, including a heroic performance against Ohio State last year and a2-4 start to this season.
Dakota State in that span. The with this level of Michigan pro style under Brady Hoke. against Ohio State, but he
Bison are in the FCS. football, and is this the image of When the Wolverines stayed in the game and threw
"Devin, is this rock bottom?" Michigan football that you had were thin at receiver in 2012, for 451 yards.
a reporter:asked. going in?" he selflessly made the move When that same injury kept=
"No," he replied. "We "Next question." to wideout. When Denard him out of the Wolverines' bowl
continue to build." In 20 years, Michigan won't Robinson got game a month
"Where celebrate Devin Gardner, the hurt midway later, he stood
do you think scapegoat of Michigan's fall to through in crutches on
Coach Hoke's the bottom of the Big Ten. It that season, In 20 years, the sideline as
pissed. future is with won't celebrate Devin Gardner, Gardner took Shane Morris
the team?" who committed four turnovers a week before M ichigan won't ran a limited
wants to another against Notre Dame in the transitioning offense in a
asked. program's first shutout since back to celebrate Gardner. blowout loss.
ched." "What does 1984. It won't celebrate Devin quarterback. How can
that have Gardner, the quarterback at - Last year, you expect
-to do with the helm of Michigan's first 0-2 Gardner a confident
anything?" he start in Big Ten play since 1967. suffered the consequences of quarterback when he has spent
retorted. Maybe that's a mistake. Michigan's lifeless offensive the last year getting hurried or
"There was a sign in the Gardner committed to line. He was sacked 34 times, hit every time he drops back
crowd that said, 'This is not run the spread under Rich but he got up every time an to pass? How can you expect
Michigan football,"' a third Rodriguez, but most of his opposing lineman unloaded progression when you strip a
continued. "Are you happy playingtime has come in the on his body. He broke his foot dual-threat quarterback of one

str
The
team
conse
weeke
the a
Knigh
Her

ive Things
Michigan's own 14-yard line with 6:34 left. illus
The Wolverines marched down team
Uggles continue the field and got all the way to "V
in 26-24 loss the Rutgers 38-yard line before stati
redshirt sophomore Amarah out h
Darboh's apparent reception a brt
By MAX COHEN -was ruled incomplete. Then, as al
Daily SportsEditor Rutgers blocked a 56-yard field TI
goal attempt by senior kicker appa
Michigan football Matt Wile, ending Michigan's there
has now suffered three threat. the c
cutive losses. This In what had been a week of te
nd, it was a 26-24 defeat at filled with controversy, the from
nds of Rutgers, the Scarlet Wolverines' comeback attempt the
ts' first Big Ten win. showed that there's still some begir
e are five things we fight left in this team.

We Learned: Rutgers

a

learnedfromthe disappointment
in Piscataway.
1. This team didn't roll over
After Rutgers quarterback
Gary Nova found wide receiver
Andrew Turzilli with 13:12 left
in the game to give the Scarlet
Knights a 26-17 lead, the game
looked over. Michigan's offense
had looked stagnant, its defense
porous. The Wolverines already
had one Big Ten loss and a
second appeared imminent.
Still, Michigan fought back.
Fifth-year senior quarterback
Devin Gardner led the team on a
seven-play, 69-yard touchdown
drive, which he capped with a
19-yard scramble into the end
zone. The Wolverines still had
work to do, down 26-24. .
Michigan got a defensive stop
and took over possession on its

2. That being said, there are
few tangible things to play for
Two games into conference
play, Michigan already has two
losses. It would take a complete
turnaround just to qualify for
bowl eligibility in the midst of
the Wolverines' 2-4 start.
In order to finish with the
necessary 6-6 record, Michigan
can afford just two more losses.
With games on the road at
Michigan State and Ohio State,
the task is daunting.
There are no guaranteed
wins left on the Wolverines'
schedule. Maryland, Indiana
and Northwestern have
displayed periods of competence
this season against legitimate
opponents. Michigan has not.
After Saturday's game, junior
wide receiver Devin Funchess

3.
of pr
Be
defe
Mat
thou
swar
the e
it ap
been
It
that
losse
not
But a
strug
Nc
in ti
on h
404
with
week
interi

inated other things the
could play for.
Wins and losses, that's just a
stic," Funchess said. "We're
here just playing together as
otherhood, playing together
family."
hough the team is
arently sticking together and
e have been few examples to
contrary, playing for the love
smmates is along way away
the goal of championships
Wolverines had at the
nning of the season.
The defense has its share
roblems
fore this season began,
nsive coordinator Greg
tison expected great
ess from his unit. He
ght it would be fearsome,
ming and tough. Through
early portion of the season,
speared as though it could've
on its way.
was offensive turnovers
thwarted Michigan in
s to Notre Dame and Utah,
defensive inconsistencies.
against Rutgers, the defense
ggled mightily.
ova found constant holes
Lhe Wolverines' secondary
is way to a career high of
passing yards to go along
three touchdowns. A few
ks ago, Nova threw five
rntin Aainct Pn Qtntp

a

ALLISON FARRAND/Daily
The Michigan defense, which had previously looked like a strength of the team, surrendered 26 points to Rutgers.

in Rutgers' Big Ten debut. When he needed it most, he
Michigan's tackling also displayed the poise needed to
struggled. There warenumerous win games, particularly on his
lapses in space and players two fourth-quarter drives.
who just couldn't bring down He admitted his
the Scarlet Knights' receivers. disappointment with being

of poise is valued in a starting
quarterback.
His teammates codstantly
praise his leadership, and his
response to adversity showed
why. He deals with a great deal
of inconsistency, but at the
moment, he's better prepared
than Morris to lead this team.
For better or worse, Gardner
is this team's quarterback.

Rutgers
had seven
different
receivers
with at least
20 yards
receiving.
4. Gardner
won't back
down
Even after
sophomore

benched after
the game,
once again
The Wolverines' showing the
competitor
comeback attempt inside of him.
showed that there's 5. Bold
still some fight left predictions
Shane
in this team. Morris
won't play a
significant
snap the rest

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quarterback Shane Morris of this season
started instead of him last
weekend against Minnesota, Morris traveled with
Gardner stepped right back in Michigan to Piscataway,
and took the reins of the offense. because Hoke said he's an
His play wasn't perfect important part of the team. But
- Gardner's third-quarter Gardner showed Saturday that
interception was a momentum- he's the quarterback who gives
killer - but wasn't at fault for the Wolverines the best chance
the loss, especially when he to win.
easily could've been rattled by Gardner elevated his play
the circumstances of the past in the fourth quarter with the
few weeks. He threw for 178 game on the line, the sign of
yards and rushed for another a quarterback on a mission.
40, including two touchdowns. Though he fell short, that kind

4

6.2
Yards per carryfor sophomore running
back Derrick Green

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