The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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82 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON O ne play — that's what prevented Devin Gardner from adding his name to the list of Michigan quarterbacks who led the Wol- verines to the ultimate late-November triumph. One play from crushing Ohio State's hopes, while sending 110,000-plus into rollicking, pulsating ecstasy. The play never came about. Gardner, navigating the second half on a busted foot, wasn't allowed one more option scamper to the end zone for a two-point conversion. Instead, he tried to force a throw to a curling re- ceiver behind an offensive line leaking Buckeyes. Picked off. Devastation. Disbelief. The countdown clock inside Schembechler Hall immediately reset to 365 days. But that's a long time, waiting, working, pouring off sweat and frustration and the doubts of others while seeking one more shot. One more play. "One more chance for the team," Gardner mused, ruefully. "You've got a chance to do it, you've got to be able to do it." The near misses became a recurring theme for a crew and a quarterback who set passing and receiving records, carved up Notre Dame early to draw double-takes, and moved up and down the field against Ohio State in a fashion that might have rendered Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes speechless. It wasn't enough … not quite. Michigan didn't make that play — not in the capper to a lost month of November, the 42-41 shootout versus the Buckeyes. Not in a 43-40 quadruple-overtime crusher at Penn State. Not in the 17-13 stunner at home against Nebraska, in which the Wolverines still seemed in shock from a trip to East Lansing the week before. Not in the icebox at Iowa City, where a 21-7 lead somehow melted into a 24-21 loss. It's a team game, and pinning the blame on one individual is pointless and misguided, coaches always caution. But when you have the football in your hands on every play, it's tough not to take it personally. All self-recrimination aside, Michigan's fifth-year senior quarterback simply understands the fine line between winning and losing, the one-play difference between getting carried off and get- ting written off. He felt it throughout a long, hard winter. "It was the potential we had to be so good, and we didn't really reach it for whatever reason," Gardner said. "We were so close. We were so close, in a lot of different games. We made a lot of strides, as far as toughness and being able to fight when adversity comes. We needed that much more to finish. "It just sticks in your mind, like wow. Maybe if I take this extra rep, it could be the difference in us winning a one-point game or losing it." Michigan took extra steps toward potentially bridging that gap. Gone is Al Borges, the veteran tinkerer and operator of a vast array of schemes. In his place as offensive coordinator: Doug Nuss- meier, fresh off a highly successful stint at Alabama, where the emphasis appears less on trickery and more on steamrolling subjugation. NEW PLAN, SAME GOAL Devin Gardner Is Ready To Finish Differently Gardner compiled 3,443 yards of total offense (2,960 passing and 483 rushing) in 2013, which ranks second for a single-season at U-M behind only Denard Robinson's total of 4,272 yards in 2010. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 82-84.Devin Gardner.indd 82 6/18/14 3:57 PM

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