The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 85 bruises and things like that. Towards the end, I had to come out. I wanted to play, but they wouldn't let me play. I was coughing up blood a little bit, and the game was out of reach. "It killed me. I know guys that were like, 'There's no way. I'd never quit.' But my team- mates knew. That was big for me. It still kind of pisses me off that people would say stuff like that. "I'm proud of myself. I'm a tough guy. It was tough. We stuck together, man. I feel like we continued to fight together. We didn't play the way we wanted to, but we didn't give up, for sure." Despite the lopsided score, Gardner still re- calls a big play or two that seemed to swing the momentum early. He concedes nothing about a second meeting with the Spartans, even though, by a twist of Big Ten scheduling, the Wolver- ines are headed back to East Lansing this year. "I can't wait to get the chance to go back up there," Gardner defiantly offered. "It feels way better to beat them there. It would be cool to beat them here, but it's easier. It's a lot easier to win at home, with your own crowd. I'd just like to see the faces, when you beat somebody else in their own place and walk out of there with a victory." Despite MSU's resounding success in 2013, taking the Spartans down doesn't represent an impossible task, he noted. It's all about making them pay for the risks they take to inflict dam- age on the opposing quarterback. "Yeah, they gamble," Gardner said. "Oh, yeah. I talk about it with Coach Nuss all the time. There's an answer for every defense. Their defense, as complicated as it may seem, is very simple. "They gamble, and you've got to take ad- vantage of them. It puts so much pressure on the quarterback that quarterbacks don't take advantage. We're going to make sure we get the chance to do that." Nussmeier insists Gardner can be a dif- ference maker in those situations, and many others, although he's far from a finished product. "There are not many guys in the country that can throw, and then change the game with their feet the way Devin can," Nussmeier said. "Devin is still a work in progress at the quarter- back position. He's still learning the intricacies of the position. "One of the biggest things right now is learning the timing and anticipation of the passing game, getting rid of the ball, so you don't have lost-yardage plays on sacks. I've really been impressed by the way he's worked, and looking forward to him having a big fall." The 41 points Michigan hung on Ohio State in 2013 represents the most a U-M team has ever scored in a loss to the Buckeyes, topping the 39 Chad Henne and the Wolverines put up in the ill-fated 2006 contest. Gardner directed that show on one leg for most of the second half, and still agonizes over the outcome. He remembers so well the play that turned Michigan's fortunes. He scrambled, racing for a first down with OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier zeroing in on him. "He jumped on my back, and I'm reaching to get the first down," Gardner recalled. "My foot is stuck in the ground and he jumps on it. The ball comes out, and I try to go get it. I couldn't push off the way I wanted to. I was a weird feeling like, 'Wow, why can't I go get the ball?' "I stood up and was like, I know I didn't just fumble that ball. There's no way. I was definitely down." The officials disagreed, and a potential scor- ing drive for Michigan went the other way for an eventual touchdown. Meanwhile, the Buck- eyes managed to take the foot out of football for U-M's field general. "My foot just felt funny," Gardner said. "I walked over to Schmitty [U-M head athletic trainer Paul Schmidt] and said, 'I can't feel my foot. It's gone.' "I knew something was wrong. I tried to jog and walk and it wasn't happening. I went out there and just continued to play. "Coach Hoke was like, 'Don't show it.' I couldn't see my own face, but he was looking at me like, 'We can't do that right now. Your teammates have got to see your face of confi- dence.' He wouldn't let me cry about it. I was trying to, but …" Whether it's Tom Hanks saying so in a movie or Hoke wordlessly implying the fact, there's no crying in athletics. Not in the moment, anyway. Nobody cares about the ifs, ands, buts, maybes and close calls. Nobody remembers almost. That's why Gardner is so determined about his last shot. That's why his memories of Ohio State will drive him through the summer, and fall camp, and into the 2014 season. Close just intensifies the pain, and the desire. "Oh, yeah," Gardner said. "In a nutshell, I felt like that was the culmination of our whole season. Just one more play. That was literally visible — one more play. "We're going to be able to make those plays this year." ❑ Following In The Footsteps Of … Dennis Franklin (1972-74) Why Franklin: Franklin proved an elusive running quarterback for Bo Schembechler's teams of the early 1970s, although he didn't run the ball nearly as much as he handed off in Michigan's option offense. Franklin still accomplished a great deal with his feet, running for 1,212 yards over three seasons while passing for 2,285. Meanwhile, both Franklin and current U-M quarterback Devin Gardner feature some painful near misses against Ohio State on their résumés, along with a notable injury in that game. Franklin went 0-2-1, endur- ing losses of 14-11 and 12-10, sandwiched around the infamous 10-10 tie in 1973. Gardner experienced the 26-21 near miss against the Buckeyes in 2012, and the excru- ciating 42-41 decision in Ann Arbor last year. What it could mean: Franklin's broken collarbone against the Buckeyes kept him and the Wolverines out of the Rose Bowl after the 1973 season, with Big Ten athletic directors voting to send the Buckeyes to Pasadena after Michigan and Ohio State tied for the conference championship. Gardner's broken foot hindered him from notching his first win at quarterback against OSU. Gardner has a chance to end his personal frustration in that game, down in Columbus come Nov. 29. He could also become Michi- gan's first QB in a decade to earn a Big Ten championship ring. He first has to embody a number of Frank- lin attributes, and get some help. Schem- bechler's signal-caller took good care of the football, throwing a combined 12 intercep- tions in three seasons. But he benefited from a ground game that punished oppo- nents, one Gardner could use. Overall: Franklin's career as a starter in- volved a 30-2-1 overall record, but incredible frustration at the end of seasons. Gardner won't match the overall success numbers, but has a shot at finishing on the upswing, with a win against the Buckeyes and in the bowl game Franklin never saw. — John Borton Last season, Gardner threw for 503 yards in the 63-47 win over Indiana and for 451 yards in the 42-41 loss to Ohio State, marking the top two passing yardage days in Michigan football history and the only two games in which a U-M quarterback has thrown for more than 400 yards. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 82-85.Devin Gardner.indd 85 6/18/14 3:59 PM

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