ANN ARBOR—Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint each had reason for anxious feelings heading out onto the field at the big house Saturday.
For Toussaint, Saturday’s 59-9 win provided a small form of redemption. The rest of his 2012 season and most of his off-season were stolen from him after breaking his leg against Iowa last fall. Carrying the ball 14 times for 57 yards and finding the end zone twice for the Wolverines, Toussaint showed no signs of hesitation, running and cutting well in his first game action in almost a year.
“I would say physically I felt great,” Toussaint said. “But it was never really about the physical point. The mental point overtook all of that. So, I feel real good mentally and I’m just ready to play some more football.
“I just want to say it’s an emotional feeling. I just want to show that I can contribute any way for this football team -- protecting Devin and running the football hard. I mean, all that goes out the window when it’s time to come out on the field because my confidence should step-in and my preparation should step-in.”
Rushing behind three new starters along the interior of the offensive line, an offensive line that struggled to clear a path for the running backs in 2012, Toussaint says the big fellas up front did what they needed to do lead by tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.
“I think they did really well,” Toussaint said. “Like I said before, I think they did well in all camp and I think they definitely built chemistry. It takes Schofield and Taylor on the outside to bring those guys inside together and I think they did a really good job at that.”
Starting the final five games in 2012, Gardner took the field Saturday fully understanding what it meant to lead the Wolverines from the quarterback position. What Gardner had never experienced, was taking the reins of the Wolverines’ offense in a season opener in front of 112,000 fans.
Gardner had one thing on his mind.
“I can’t even really describe how I was feeling,” Gardner said. “My heart was racing and I was just like, don’t fall running and touching this banner. I mean, I really can’t describe how it felt. It felt great though.”
Throwing five interceptions over a five game span in 2012, Gardner was picked off twice by Central Michigan Saturday. Despite the errors through the air, Gardner was able to complete 10 of his 15 pass attempts for 162 yards, including a touchdown to senior wide out Jeremy Gallon.
Still, Gardner wishes he could have a couple do overs.
“I felt like I managed the game pretty well,” Gardner said. “The two things I didn’t do well was throw the interceptions but besides that I felt like I was pretty efficient, getting us in the right plays and making the right throws that were there.
“The first one (interception) was the execution deal. I didn’t execute at all. I made a bad read and threw it. It was a decent pass but it was a bad read so it got turned over. The next one, I got hit while I threw it so it kind of went far and you can somewhat control that but not as much as you’d like to.
“I wish I had them both back but, we’re done now and we’re on to next week.”
Pulled from the game in the third quarter, Gardner turned the ball over to true freshman quarterback Shane Morris. Morris, a hard throwing lefty that earned the back-up job over redshirt freshman Brian Clearly in fall camp, completed 4 of his 6 pass attempts for 59 yards and an interception.
“He looked fine,” Gardner said of Morris. “He made the right checks. You guys, you watch quarterbacks, you don’t see all the inside things like the different checks you got to make, getting us in the right play and things like that. I think he did really well. Obviously you got to watch the film to see the small things that he might’ve missed or that he did get where he might’ve gotten pluses or things like that.”
The first career start for center Jack Miller didn’t provide the offense with any noticeable hiccups Saturday. Gardner elaborates on the chemistry between he and his new center.
“It went well,” Gardner said. “No exchange problems, you know, those are big deals that, pet peeves I think for the coach that those are things you can’t even start the play because of an exchange and we had no problems like that.
“Our protection, we were on the same page in changing the protections or keeping the protections the same so I feel like it was a great opportunity for us to show that we have a lot of chemistry.”
To watch video of both Toussaint and Gardner following the win over CMU, press play below.