ANN ARBOR—Michigan junior quarterback Devin Gardner remembers the last time he traveled to Happy Valley for a game at Penn State.
It was 2010, Rich Rodriguez was still the head coach of the Wolverines, and Gardner was the backup to Denard Robinson, not playing in Michigan’s 41-31 loss.
“It’s like the Big House except the Big House is the best stadium in the country,” Gardner said Wednesday. “But they’re a close second.”
Gardner’s first road experience in 2013 nearly proved disastrous for Michigan. After turning the ball over three times in route to a 21-7 deficit in the second half at Connecticut, Gardner rallied the Wolverines for a 24-21 comeback win to help keep Michigan undefeated.
Utilizing the bye week prior to Saturday’s game against Minnesota, Gardner was used in a much more conservative way against the Golden Gophers with offensive coordinator Al Borges choosing to get the ground game going before asking for any passes to be thrown downfield.
Either way, Gardner doesn’t believe the coaches or the team ever doubted his ability to be their quarterback.
“Worst thing for a quarterback is to be looking over his shoulder and things like that,” Gardner said. “For them to have that kind of confidence in me after I played so bad is refreshing for me.”
On his high turnover numbers, Gardner added “That’s going to help our team lose. I don’t want to be the guy that’s looked to because of me we lost the game and that could’ve happened two weeks straight (against Akron and UConn).”
Responding against Minnesota with a 13-for-17 passing performance coupled with 235-yards and zero turnovers, Gardner made the right decisions under pressure, forcing little and managing the offense.
“I was thinking about ball security but I was still playing,” Gardner said. “I wasn’t thinking about not turning it over I was just thinking about making sure only my team could touch (the ball).”
Prepping for the 107,000 fans he’ll see for the second time in his career Saturday night at Penn State, Borges came up with the idea of whispering his snap counts in practice to simulate the noise, that opposed to the idea of piping in music in practice.
“I thought it was a joke (when Borges first mentioned it),” Gardner said laughing. “But conceptually it is a good idea.
“It was fun for me. I don’t know how fun it was for those guys that they had to wait until the ball was snapped to get a chance to move but I feel like that’s really good because that’s kind of how it’s going to be when it’s really loud. It’s just like I’m whispering even if I’m yelling at the top of my lungs.”
To see video of Gardner whispering his calls, addressing the Penn State defense, and more, press play below.