It has been a bumpy, curvy road for Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner this season. His poor play early led to his benching in Michigan’s first conference game of the year against Minnesota, but upon getting put back in that position, Gardner hasn’t been the same quarterback, and he showed once again against Penn State why he is Michigan’s bravest warrior.
No. 98 completed 16 of 24 passes in Saturday night’s 18-13 win over the Nittany Lions for 192 yards and a touchdown. Gardner had to be benched for the Wolverines’ final two drives of the third quarter after a quarterback sneak—which didn’t gain Michigan the first down—left him limping badly on his left foot. Junior quarterback Russell Bellomy entered the game and only attempted two passes. Michigan’s offense was stagnant with the inexperienced Bellomy under center, and it didn’t look like he would be able to march his team to victory.
Gardner hobbled back out on the field with the rest of the Wolverines’ offense to try to unknot a 13-13 tie. He was clearly feeling the pain as he limped around in the backfield and stood like a statue in the pocket, taking a major big on a 2nd-and-10 pass that was beautifully thrown to Dennis Norfleet for a 24-yard gain, which helped set up Michigan for a go-ahead field goal, permanently giving the Wolverines the lead.
The heroics of Gardner against Penn State were not statistically the same as the injured acts of boldness displayed last season against Ohio State in the second half—he didn’t carve up the Nittany Lions’ secondary and bring his team back in the fourth quarter. Instead, he ignored the pain, took the field and did what was needed of him, exactly the way a true leader should.
A bye week is going to be most welcomed for this team; it seems like everyone is banged up and in need of some rest. From there, it’s on to Michigan State. Gardner says he expects to be completely ready to roll for the rivalry game. Michigan’s warrior will be ready to fight again.