|Photo Credit: Tony Ding|
It was the beginning of the 4th quarter, and Devin Gardner threw an errant pass that was returned to the house by an Akron defender for 6 points. A young kid behind me yelled, “Man! Robinson sucks today!” Granted he was probably only 10, I really can’t blame him for making the mistake, based on how the game was going. I started to have terrible flashbacks, flashbacks that I never want again.
Let me continue this post by saying I loved Denard at Michigan, as did many. He was so exciting, and when his career at quarterback ended, I’m the first to admit I was very emotional about it. However, Denard also had some horrific plays throughout his career; plays I thought I had blocked out forever.
I knew that Michigan needed a change, and was thrilled that Gardner could be that guy. He proved a lot for Michigan in 5 games last season, and my expectations shot up for 2013. He impressed me overall in Week 1 and 2 this season, minus a couple of his costly interceptions. He made big plays on a big night against Notre Dame, and put up outstanding numbers, leading the Wolverines to victory.
After this Saturday, it all went away. I was expecting to see him put up 300+ first half passing yards against Akron, but what I got instead, was mind blowing. Gardner, and other starters, played the whole game. A game that was even closer and more nerve racking then the game Under the Lights.
It was Akron. AKRON! No disrespect to a hard working program, but go look at the season-by-season numbers and you will easily understand how embarrassing this close victory was. It wasn’t just Devin either, it was the whole team, on both sides of the ball.
Devin Gardner simply played like a conference version of Denard Robinson. He completed less then 55% of his passes, and threw more picks then touchdown. Sure, he had 248 yards through the air, but if he and Michigan had played like they were supposed to, he should have had that number at the half. He threw a pick six on a bad pass, a pass ironically similar to a pick he threw in Week 1 against CMU. It was Gardner’s second pick six of the season. After his “legacy like” performance against the Irish, he was mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Well, wake up call, Tajh Boyd and Marcus Mariota have yet to throw an interception; and don’t sit there and tell me they haven’t played anybody, especially Boyd.
What Gardner did do, is run. He dropped 103 rushing yards, and scored on a 36-yard touchdown rush. It was exciting, the crowd went nuts, and Michigan went up 14-10. But it was so “Denard like”. It was something we would have expected from #16: Make mistakes early, and try to cover them up with dazzling runs.
Sure, Denard won games. Heck, he even lead the team to an 11-2 season, and a BCS bowl win. Still, the shakey-pass, but “save the teams butt with your running ability” game play was supposed to exit when Robinson graduated. Yet, after Saturday, against AKRON, it all felt the same.
Now I believe in Gardner 100%, but he needs to find away to cut the silly turnovers. After Saturday, it looks like the entire ball club has a ton to work on. I’m sure they have a recovery plan in progress, and I am excited to witness it. Nevertheless, it was a nightmare of a game, and hopefully that is the only time we will see that terrible of a performance all season.