Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘Devin Gardner’

Michigan close but no cigar versus Ohio State

In sports column on December 2, 2013 at 12:12 am
Pic cutline: - Detroiter Devin Gardner and UM fell just short of an upset of Ohio State. - Dan Graschuck photo

Pic cutline: – Detroiter Devin Gardner and UM fell just short of an upset of Ohio State. – Dan Graschuck photo

By Leland Stein III

ANN ARBOR – As has been the case all season with the Michigan Wolverines, they put up a gallant fight but came up short.

Again, before 113,511 in the storied Michigan “Big House” Stadium, the Wolverines put up a fight until the last few seconds of the game, before succumbing to the No. 3 ranked and still undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, 42-41.

“We talked about how all week we would have to play our best game to compete against this team,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in the post-game press conference. “We did some good things, but we did some things not so good. However, there is no doubting that our kids stepped up and played with passion. This is a special game and we practiced and studied film starting on Monday with focus. It is disappointing we could not close this game out for these young men.”

Talking to many of my friends in the press box just before the game commenced, most were speculating that Ohio State, a 16-point favorite, would blow Michigan out.

And who could protest, squabble or argue with that assumption, based on the way the Wolverines have played the past seven weeks.

Leland Stein IIIThe 2013 season started with so much hope with quarterback Devin Gardner starting his first full season at the helm of this Michigan team. Living up to those expectations, the Wolverines started out 5-0.

However, after a four overtime loss in a game they should have won, UM has descended downward. After the Penn State heart breaker, over the next seven games Michigan forgot how to block for the run, protect for their quarterback (Gardner), and, defend against the run defensively.

That Penn State loss has been followed with a beat-down by Michigan State, two close very winnable games against Nebraska and Iowa, and now this.

Coach Hoke, Gardner and the entire Michigan team all said that this was enough, and, collectively they went after a win on Saturday. After trailing 35-21 in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines showed some fighting spirit and grit. Coming back time after time, eventually tying the game at 35-35 with a little more than five minutes left in the contest, only to see OSU fly down the field to take a 42-35 lead with 2:20 left in the game.

For Gardner and his teammates this was an opportunity to arrest all the football demons that have been causing them grief. With purpose and determination the Wolverines sat sail on an 11-play, 84-yard drive that gave them an opportunity to tie the game.

So, with 30 seconds left in the game Michigan went for the 2-point conversion and win. I agree completely with going for the two points,

“We had not been able to stop their running game,” Hoke noted. “We were doing a poor job of slowing them down, so going for the win looked like the best thing for us to do.”

Indeed in was the best thing, the only problem was the play UM called in their most crucial possession of the season.

“We have worked on that play in practice and it was supposed to be a rub for (Drew) Dileo” a distraught Gardner whispered in his most solemn tone of voice. “I believe it was the right call to go for two. I do not question it at all, we just did not execute.”

So Michigan went for the 2-point conversion and Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) remains undefeated. With the win the Buckeyes achieved their 24th consecutive victory and keep their national championship hopes alive.

Gardner put in as good an effort as any UM quarterback versus OSU. He completed 32 of 45 passes for 451 yards and four TDs, connecting nine times for 175 yards and a score to Jeremy Gallon, and he ran for a 1-yard touchdown that gave Michigan the first lead in the shootout that went to halftime tied at 21.

The near Michigan upset almost gave the Wolverines (7-5, 3-5) their biggest upset in one of America’s greatest rivalries since legendary coach Bo Schembechler‘s first team at Michigan beat what Woody Hayes noted was his best Buckeyes squad ever.

The loss was yet another in Gardner’s first tenure at the helm of the Wolverines. He has showed that he is a skilled athlete and field leader, but the problems on the offensive line and in the running game knocked him off the pedestal as a premiere quarterback in the country.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

UM’s Gardner makes smooth transition to receiver

In sports column on September 22, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Detroiter Devin Gardner catches touchdown pass. – Dan Graschuck photo

By Leland Stein III

ANN ARBOR – Obviously this was litmus test for the University Michigan Wolverines, as they undertook their first home game of the 2102 season versus the running instead of flying Air Force Falcons.

Before 112,522 in the Big House the only thing that took flight for the Falcons was the jet flyover that took place after the nation anthem was concluded.

These groups of flyboys really are as run happy a team as there is in college football. Air Force grounded out 400 yards in its first game and pushed the Wolverines around enough to the tune of 290 rushing yards.

Still the hungry Wolverines hung on and chewed up the Falcons through the air and on the ground for a hard fought 31-25 victory. Leading the way was Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson, who combined for 426 yards (218 rush, 208 pass), accounting for all but seven of Michigan’s entire offensive output.

Helping Robinson out were junior quarterback-turned-receiver Devin Gardner and freshman tight end Devin Funchess.

Funchess had four catches for 106 yards and a noteworthy 30-yard touchdown where he out-jumped a defender. He was the first Michigan tight end to top 100 yards since Jerame Tuman had 126 against Colorado in 1997.

However, Gardner was the most comfortable target for the second straight week, catching five passes for 63 yards, including a precision route for his score. Against Alabama Gardner latched onto a 44-yard touchdown pass, showing all his potential.

Leland Stein III

Last week the Wolverines took on defending national champion and then second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide put such a beating on the Wolverines that they were elevated to the top-ranked team in the country while the Wolverines sunk from No. 8 to 19.

“We were hungry for victory,” former Inkster High star Devin Gardner said. “So we did enough to make sure we got this win and got our season back on track.”

During the fall of 2009, Gardner was rated as the No. 1 dual-threat high school quarterback in the United States by Rivals.com and the No. 5 quarterback by ESPNU. He verbally committed to the University of Michigan’s 2010 recruiting class in the spring of 2009 and enrolled at the University of Michigan in January 2010.

Much to his chagrin Robinson was entrenched as the Michigan quarterback and during spring practice Gardner made the switch to receiver.

“In spring practice I saw we were a little short at the receiver position so I took some reps there and did kind of good,” Gardner said, “so they took notice and told me I might be able to help at that position right now. I began to practice hard and work on my mechanics.”

The question I asked Gardner is he now a receiver or a quarterback?

He said emphatically: “I am a quarterback! I saw a way to help this team win games this season so I moved to receiver. But, I still have every young person’s dream. I want to play quarterback for the University of Michigan. I still feel I have the ability and the heart to play the position. In fact I look forward to throwing the ball to Funchess next season. I can’t wait to get the chance to throw the ball to him.”

As for now Gardner is turning into the most stable receiver on the UM team. They play Massachusetts this Saturday at the Big House and it is an important test for keeping this team on track.

Gardner, 6-foot-4, is proving to be a key clog in the Wolverines passing game. 

He noted that the major change from quarterback is blocking. “It is hard trying to block those little defensive backs,” he said. “They try to juke me and move all over the place. But as far as the pass routes, as I quarterback I understand and know all of that.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII