And the Spartans did.
Gardner was sacked seven times for a total loss of 49-yards in the Wolverines 29-6 defeat in East Lansing, leaving his body bruised and clean white jersey drenched in mud. Gardner still managed to finish the day completing 14-of-27 pass attempts for 210-yards.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said the plan wasn’t for Gardner to be hit that many times, but it wasn’t exactly unexpected.
“When you go into a game, you got to understand, the way it was setup, cause we were going to take some balls down the field on them, the quarterback was going to take a few hits,” Borges said. “Now, we weren’t counting on that, don’t get me wrong.
“So, (Devin) was ready. He knew exactly what we needed to do in that game offensively and that it wasn’t going to be a clean jersey at the end of it. We just can’t have that happen to him in that game or any other game.”
On Sunday, Gardner was limited in practice, as expected, getting back into the ice bath in preparation for Nebraska this Saturday in Ann Arbor. Gardner joked that Saturday was no different than any other post game, noting pretty much all he wants to do after any game is “sleep.”
Either way, Gardner’s toughness was challenged against the Spartans and he feels he proved he could handle it, not only to his teammates, but to himself as well.
“I knew when I signed up in 1998 when I first started playing football and first strapped it on,” Gardner said. “But that game showed that I really can do it and it was very beneficial for me and beneficial for my team as far as you said like leadership and everything like that.
“They saw that I fought, fought for them, and they fought for me so that’s a big step for me.”
Watching the film, Gardner couldn’t help but see and think open receivers running downfield against the Spartans that he simply didn’t have time to deliver the football to.
“I feel like that’s what helps the linemen, maybe just one more second,” Gardner said. “I feel a lot of the plays we could’ve had big plays but it didn’t happen for us and we’re going to move forward.”