ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Devin Gardner has had his fair share of highs and lows this season as Michigan’s starting quarterback.
Saturday was Gardner’s lowest point yet, as Michigan lost at Penn State, 43-40, in a thrilling four overtime affair.
Despite Gardner putting the Michigan offense on his back with 361-yards of total offense and three passing touchdowns, he once again had some costly turnovers in the first half. He would throw for two interceptions and would fumble on a blindside sack early in the second quarter.
While Gardner remains the ultimate “wildcard” player in Michigan’s offense and clearly is the most important, his mistakes have drawn criticism, with some calling for a possible switch at quarterback.
However, he’s nowhere close to losing his job as the Wolverine signal caller, said Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
“Believe me, if I didn’t have confidence in our quarterback, right?” Hoke said. “With our interceptions that we’ve had – he wouldn’t be our quarterback. I got all the confidence in the world in Devin Gardner.”
Gardner once again led the Wolverines in rushing against PSU, with a game-high 121-yards on 24-carries. It’s no question that Gardner can take over the game with his legs, and despites fitth-year senior Fitzgerald Toussaint only rushing for 27-yards on 27-carries, Hoke say there is no plans to get Gardner more carries in the game and stressed getting the running backs more involved.
“I don’t think that’s wise to have Devin take more hits,” said Hoke.
“Who’s going to play quarterback if he’s going to take more hits?” Hoke said. “Yeah, Shane (Morris) would. But you got to be conscious enough about your team. He’s had (11 starts), right? (Eleven) starts, and he has improved every week. Even though we had two turnovers the other day. The fumble, that’s not his fault. It’s blindside deal. One bad throw. He had no turnovers the week before.
In the end, Gardner is here to stay, says Hoke.
“There is no short leash.”
End of game game plan
Michigan had the ball and a 37-30 lead over PSU with just over six minutes remaining on Saturday.
Hoke says the game plan was to move the ball and make Penn State use all its timeouts.
“We wanted them to have to use their three time outs,” Hoke said.
Hoke said the Wolverines were able to accomplish that, and put the defense in a favorable position to win the game. It just didn’t work out that way, as the Michigan defense allowed PSU to go 80-yards in five plays and ties the game at 37-37 in only :23 seconds.
“I would expect our defense that we have to make somebody go 80-yards in :52 seconds – to make a stop,” Hoke said.
Brendan Gibbons had three field-goal attempts to win the game on Saturday – and missed them all.
But still has the full confidence of Hoke.
“He was 23-of-23 from 40-yards in coming into the ball game,” Hoke said. “He hit the ground on the first one with his toe. Which I was never a kicker, so you’re going to have to take it from him. Obviously (the blocked kick), it was low. It wasn’t blocked by them. It was low by us and he pushed the other one (in the third overtime). But he nailed a 40-yarder down at the other end . (The) 52-yarder (before regulation ended) was right there at the limit.”
Hoke was asked if it was mental with Gibbons.
“I don’t, I think you could of killed the guy if I would of switched kickers,” Hoke said. “And I know one thing, he won the Sugar Bowl for us. He made a kick here at home to beat Michigan State. I got a lot of faith in that guy.”