HARTFORD, Conn. -- Michigan has fallen to new levels of mediocrity with its second straight suspect win, as the Wolverines defeated Connecticut 24-21 Saturday night in front of a record crowd of 42,704 at Rentscheler field.
The reason for the struggles offensively – turnovers.
And the Maize and Blue had four of them Saturday against UConn, and three of them were committed by junior quarterback Devin Gardner.
He would finish the contest throwing for 97 yards on 11 of 23 passing with two interceptions, including a key fumble on third and one early in the third quarter, which led to a Huskies’ 34-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, giving UConn its biggest lead of the game 21-7.
“I really don’t know what happened,” said Gardner on the fumble. “it felt like it got knocked out from behind. I don’t know what happened, all I know is I didn’t hold on to the ball.”
This is the third straight game that a Gardner turnover has led to an defensive touchdown.
He has eight interceptions through four games this season compared to only seven touchdown passes. He fumbled the ball twice against the Huskies, the second was on a fourth and two early in the fourth quarter, which he would recover but the Wolverines’ would ultimately fall short on downs.
“You can’t be loose with the ball and we do that little too much,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “The first interception was tipped and anytime that happens I have a hard time blaming the guy who threw the football. But we just try to keep working and be conscious of how we are handling the situations at times. Throwing the football out of bounds is pretty good because you get the ball back.
Hoke added: “Or you can punt. Matt (Wile) punted really well and we need to keep running the home that message.”
Despite the turnovers, Gardner still tried to stay positive as No. 15 Michigan (4-0) prepares to enter Big Ten play next month.
“We faced adversity and we responded” Gardner said. “We would rather not let it come to that. But if that what it takes on this day, I mean, we’re happy with the win.”
But, again, it comes back to not turning the ball over, said Hoke.
“Offensively, you can’t give the ball away,” Hoke said. “And right now we have a major league problem where we got to fix it because that’s not going to win championships.”
Michigan starts it s quest for a 43rd Big Ten championship at home Oct. 2, when it plays host to Minnesota. And if they want a chance to win – the turnovers must stop.