And On Third Down, He Rose Again

Submitted by Brian on November 5th, 2012 at 12:19 PM

11/3/2012 – Michigan 35, Minnesota 13 – 6-3, 4-1 Big Ten

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Erin Kirkland/Daily

The only press box I've ever been in is Eastern Michigan's, and I was there to watch Devin Gardner play. He was at Inkster; Inkster was in the Big Day Prep Showdown. We even live-blogged it. The cadre of grizzled preps guys sat a few seats down. Their silverback called Gardner "high school superman" and Paul taped him from the sideline.

In an eerie prefiguring of Denard Robinson's career, Gardner had a ridiculously high percentage of Inkster's yards and made everyone feel ill when he got knocked out of the game. Inkster was on a grinding fourth quarter drive with Inkster down two. They had no kicker, so on fourth and seven from the eight they went for it. Gardner did a Vince Young impression down to the one and did not get up.

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The backup came in to guide Inkster to minus three yards on the next three plays. Gardner was reinserted for fourth and the game. He rolled out into heavy resistance, drew coverage to him, and threw a weird mechanics-free jump pass that scored the go-ahead touchdown. His teammates celebrated; he laid under a defender. Defender removed, Gardner got up like a glacier tired of gouging lakes out of mountains. Weary. A thousand years weary.

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In the press box, the preps silverback spake thusly: "and on fourth down, he rose again."

[UPDATE: Damn my memory. This was actually a Tim tweet. Sorry I didn't remember it right and work you in all fancy-like, Tim.]

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With Gardner on the sideline, Pioneer went 68 yards in 49 seconds to win. At halftime, the Free Press had launched their Rodriguez jihad, sucking any attention his Lazarus comeback may have generated out the airlock.

That's just how being Devin Gardner has gone. He arrived with an armload of hype and fell prey to an avalanche of it wearing dreads. He didn't even get to preserve his redshirt year thanks to Tate Forcier's inability to keep on the sunny side of life and Denard going out in about 2/3rds of Michigan's games. He moved to receiver, but called himself a quarterback. He saw the Nebrasaka game up close and personal. What was he thinking then about where he had ended up?

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Things happen and you feel certain ways about them and you can only figure out why you felt the things you felt in the moment later, after. From distance I think my extremely complicated yesssnononononoyessss response to Gardner's rolling out stopping neh neh neh no lets turn around and run the other way touchdown heave was comprised of these three things:

  1. Seeing that Dileo had broken open by twenty yards.
  2. Remembering Devin's high school superman act.
  3. Remembering what happened when he tried to matriculate that upwards. Yeah, it's the MSU yakety sax clip. I didn't need to tell you this.

It was third and seventeen and Michigan hadn't been able to move the ball a lick against Minnesota, so that colored my expectations as well.

Mostly I expected that something hilariously bad would occur and I would tweet out gallows humor while scouting out Goldy for some Ohio Bobcat action. This expectation got much better when Gardner cleared the containment and broke to the backside of the play. It got worse again when Devin chucked it without setting his feet, and then it was a touchdown and I'm just like…

oh. That was madcap. That's not happening again but at least we're seven points closer to not losing this game. I wonder how we will get any more? I think we should try the triple reverse throwback bomb to Lewan. Works every time when the universe has turned into a cartoon.

Michigan went with "fade route to 5'8" receiver in jet boots." Close enough. No one adjusts to the laws of physics going all looney tunes like the Michigan Wolverines.

Yeah, Minnesota is just a high school team with a nice stadium that disguised their pass defense in the wreckage of 2012 Big Ten quarterbacking. Yeah, everyone is getting way ahead of themselves praising Gardner when his performance seemed split about 50/50 between yakety sax (but good!) and receivers bailing Gardner out on balls they have no business catching. Yeah, Gardner's mechanics still look bizarre. The main takeaway from that game was uh-oh, Ohio State. Sure.

I don't think Devin Gardner cares after years of being a two-snap sideshow. That ridiculous heave was the first hint that he might be able to hack it next year, and that's a huge relief for everyone. It took three years and third and seventeen, but Devin Gardner got up and recaptured some of that old magic.

Media

Gallery from the Daily. Detnews game story and gallery. Here's another for the Hoke pointin' files:

(caption)  Michigan head coach Brady Hoke shouts some instructions to his players in the second half.   *** After trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, in which they gained just 9 yards, The Michigan Wolverines, led by backup quarterback Devin Gardner, came roaring back to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 35-13 to retain the Little Brown Jug. The victory at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis improved the Wolverines' record to 6-3 (4-1 Big Ten). Photos taken on Saturday, November 3, 2012.  ( John T. Greilick / Detroit News )

John T. Greilick/Detnews

Photos from MVictors. This is epic:

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 Obligatory jug shots from same:

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Highlights again:

Hoke postgame; players postgame.

Bullets

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3_thumbBrady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week.

A close race this week. I did tweet "JMFR" after that and meant it. Nine tackles, five solo, three TFLs, various other things that don't show up on the scoreboard but let other people make plays. However, Jake Ryan got edged again and I'm pretty sure he was the guy who let Minnesota's tight end get so wide open on their touchdown.

So… Wide Receivers As A Unit, come on down! Drew Dileo: I'm not even laughing at the inevitable Wes Welker comparisons. Jeremy Gallon: separate like a boss, leap like a man with rocket boots. Roy Roundtree: Devin Gardner TARP. If those three guys don't collectively play out of their minds the narrative about Gardner is quite a bit different today.

Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner, about whom more in a bit, Jake Ryan(beastmode on several plays), Jordan Kovacs (damn you fluck), Desmond Morgan (when he hits you on third and short stops happen).

Epic Double Point Standings.

3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska).
0.3: Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota)

Brady Hoke epic double troll of the week. This is just magnificent:

Coach Brady Hoke said after the game Gardner now is entrenched as Michigan's backup quarterback while Bellomy deals with an undisclosed injury, although he was guarded about what exactly is ailing the redshirt freshman.

"Russell's situation is a little different," Hoke said. "Not one I want to discuss."

Asked to clarify whether the issue is injury related, Hoke said "Most likely. Yes. A boo boo."

There's an art installation about the nature of truth and reality in Hoke press conferences. UMAA, get on that.

BONUS TROLL THAT MAKES IT DOUBLE: When Michigan announced that Denard Robinson wouldn't play after Hoke said he "will start," they described Denard's injury like so:

The Michigan Athletic Department delivered the sobering news minutes before kickoff: senior quarterback Denard Robinson would not start against Minnesota due to an “undisclosed injury.”

Hoke is "very optimistic" he'll be back next week. Amazing thing: that was the first game Denard has ever missed with injury.

Obligatory Gardnertake. Obviously he'll be the backup QB the remainder of the year what with Denard being even more fragile than normal and Russell Bellomy being both injured and the primary author of the second half of the Nebraska game. And he's finally done something other than worry everyone about his future not living up to what people were hoping it would be. This is major progress.

I still find myself way on the conservative end of reaction to Gardner's performance. Some other blog takes to set the table:

"After a frightening start, Gardner was amazing.  I’m amazed that he can spend basically one week preparing for this game and do that.  Yes, I realize it was The Gophers and like everyone else I’m prone to oversteer after a win, but that was remarkable.  So that is the 5 star guy that everyone was salivating over out of high school."

-MVictors

Also at MVictors, Steve Sapardanis:

WOW!!! His performance evoked three words from me: Poise, Confidence and WOW!!

SMQB:

Robinson didn't play at all, and converted receiver Devin Gardner made him look utterly expendable. Lining up at quarterback for the first time this season, Gardner was 12-of-18 for 245 yards – he had three completions covering at least 45 – and two touchdowns, good for a sky-high pass efficiency rating of 206.6.

Meinke's headline-writin' guy:

Devin Gardner's stellar performance leads Michigan to rout

This may be an effect from sitting in the stadium instead of catching it on TV: Gardner had plenty of wide open dudes, and his throws were erratic. On the one hand, there was the picture-perfect bomb to Gallon; on the other, Dileo and Roundtree bailed Gardner out hardcore on the touchdown drive that put the game out of reach. The Dileo catch was a circus catch all the way, one that could have been made much easier.

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Roundtree == Gardner TARP. MVictors

Meanwhile Roundtree broke open by yards and would have had an easy touchdown if Gardner had gotten the ball to the endzone on the opposite hash. As it was he had to circus Michigan out of an interception. I'm torn on pressured completions to Jerald Robinson and Roundtree that were wobblers but did pick up big chunks.

Gardner does have a much better sense of when to run around like a lunatic than Denard. His High School Superman mode picked up the Dileo touchdown and a critical third down conversion on Michigan's second touchdown drive. He's still having trouble adjusting to what he can get away with in college, as his second attempt to reprise his MSU 2012 Yakety Sax (except good(!)) ended in a crazy whip-around throwaway that is easy to see resulting in something worse than a harmless ball out of bounds.

Compounding everything is the complication that Minnesota is Minnesota, and Minnesota, despite being Minnesota, was the top pass efficiency defense in the league entering the game. I tend to give more credence to the Minnesota bit of that given Ace's FFFF of Jared Abbrederis hand-wavingly wide open and seeing plenty of that in person Saturday. Gardner had doorwalls, not windows.

Okay, yeah. Michigan called maybe one or two runs for Gardner, which was frustrating but

The passing game wasn’t difficult to acclimate to, Gardner said, but recognizing new protections and familiarizing himself with the ground game took some time. He called offensive coordinator Al Borges’ gameplan a “safe” one, due to the extreme lack of depth at quarterback.

“They couldn’t run the quarterback,” Gardner said. “I’m comfortable with doing that, but there was no way we could have done that, it just wouldn’t have been smart.”

…okay yeah I'm with you.

Running game, turrible. Michigan got a short-yardage romp from Fitzgerald Toussaint in garbage time to make the final numbers look okay. Extracting the final two drives (four Thomas Rawls runs for 6 yards and four Toussaint runs for 50), suck out sacks (three for 23), and Michigan's run game did this:

  • 30 carries for 122 yards.

That is a hair over four yards a carry, and suuuuuucks. Even if you add in the garbage time they only get up to 4.7 YPC, which is almost two yards worse than Minnesota's best performance to date in the Big Ten.

Kids, it's sackcloth and ashes time. I had a little fit in the stands when Michigan ran an iso on one of their first couple drives and it went for three yards because it was Rawls running into an unblocked linebacker instead of Toussaint running into an unblocked linebacker and getting two yards. Things got marginally better from there, but only marginally. Michigan's long run other than the Toussaint TD was a Gardner scramble. Their next two were 1) a Gallon end-around that didn't require much blocking, and 2) the Rawls counter pitch that required none. I'm guessing that when I do the UFR the offensive line won't come out much better than they did against Nebraska.

That's mystifying after they did pretty well against a rampant ND defense and throttled a couple bad Big Ten teams. Minnesota and Nebraska aren't much better than Purdue and Illinois on defense. Michigan crushed the latter two, and essentially got crushed by the former two. Denard's absence has a lot to do with that; it's still depressing to think of Michigan's rushing offense as the worst in the Big Ten minus #16.

Hagerup dup. Will Hagerup, please report to the garage for a tuneup: three punts for an average of 29 yards each. Yorp.

Minnesota trip report section. The Gophers' new stadium is nice, as you would expect. Unlike Northwestern—the Big Ten stadium of comparable size I've been to—even the far reaches in the corner are pretty good seats, and the video board is far superior to Michigan's. I looked it up on the wikipedia: their main board is 5184 square feet to M's 3,991 and has a higher resolution. Michigan's down to 14th on their list of biggest screen things; kind of feels like the boards installed just a couple years ago are already dated.

I was on the aisle. I spent most of the game looking around people going up or down, because 1) they serve beer and 2) Minnesota fans in our section made Michigan students look like ruthless drill instructors with their punctuality. I guess it was an 11 AM local start. Even so my strategy as a Minnesota fan would be to show up for the part of the game where you're competitive and exit early if and when that ceases to be true. At least they were nice. I didn't see a single negative interaction between Michigan and Minnesota fans.

The chintz factor was pretty high, largely because the announcer would prompt everyone with "THAT'S ANOTHER GOLDEN GOPHER…" and then a variable number of fans would say "FIRST DOWN." The PA guy's mood shifted wildly with the fortunes of the game, too. By the end of it he was almost surly. The Minnesota marching band is 350 strong and the only thing I remember them playing was the Mortal Kombat theme sometime in the third.

Logistically, the stadium is in a good spot. We tailgated at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul, which was a ten minute bus ride from the stadium on a private university road. That last bit is key: no traffic. After the game I went to a sportsbar to watch an epic Sparty No moment with various folk; another set of companions went right back to the car. The bus line: about ten minutes and then you're out of all traffic.

Oh so Sparty. Oh, Sparty. You sonsabitches. First you have to run out to a two-score lead and then salt the game away before getting their world-class Sparty No(!) moment in on a personal foul on a pick six—one of like six you sonsabitches took after being on your best fairy godmother behavior against Michigan because really you're just misunderstood—and then getting outright screwed in a fashion that I couldn't even enjoy because you needed to win that game.

And then. And then after the game you took a shot at Denard for no damn reason:

"He's faster than Denard, even though he thinks he's faster than (Usain) Bolt," Narduzzi said. "He's flat-out fast. He's a good football player."

And then players hopped on Twitter to claim they had not lost but one game this year:

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The post-MSU-win column truly could not have been anything but what it was. So Sparty.

It took exactly two weeks to go from "where's the threat" to Same Old Spartans. Well, okay. I actually hope you sonsabitches make a bowl game because thanks to the ineligible teams you'll get sucked into a NYD thing against an SEC team and lose by 600.

BONUS BONUS BONUS

Kid's got a future with Vince McMahon if the football thing doesn't work out.

All that said. I'm with MGoGadfly KJ on the validity of that penalty.

The player is trailing the play, looking at what's going on. He's Kenny Bell—he's fast. There is a possibility the play cuts back to where he's relevant, and Adams doesn't hit him in the head, he just shoulders him to the ground. It's not dirty or excessively violent. It's the equivalent of the PF Michigan got last week for hitting Martinez late—overprotective busybody stuff done in the name of PR. Unlike last week, it swung the game.

AND I DIDN'T EVEN GET TO LIKE IT ARRRGH

Fake field goal thing. Minnesota folk were livid at it but after seeing it on replay I think Kill almost got us.

Kill had something up his sleeve and used it, getting his quarterback wide open on the sideline with no one covering him. If he'd run downfield and the guy had thrown downfield, touchdown. Bizarrely, despite setting this up and getting a quick snap in the throw was on the LOS and Michigan could recover because they were not rushing seriously. It didn't seem like it was a screwup by the guy throwing the ball, either: Nelson just sat on the LOS instead of running downfield.

I don't get that bit, but the idea worked. The execution/play design was busted.

Side note: if you're wondering how that happened after the rules were changed such that anyone checking into the game has to do so between the numbers: Nelson was already on the field and just stayed on as the rest of the offense jogged off. I'm not sure why you'd put Nelson out there instead of a receiver in that case, another strange thing about that play.

So… yeah, everything that happened after the snap was weird and bad. The gamble itself I can get behind when your kicker is .500 on the season.

A plea for pass interference sanity. I'll probably expand this into a larger post after the season but Saturday really crystallized how much I hate the pass interference rule as currently implemented. I actually thought this when Michigan got the benefit of it on the long incompletion to Roundtree on which the DB had excellent position and Roundtree kind of flung himself all over the dude's back.

IMO, if the DB is over the top of the WR, he's earned the right to slow down and prevent the guy from getting to the ball. If he's behind him and the ball is crappy and underthrown that is the offense not executing. You should only be able to commit pass interference with your arms or by actually hitting a guy. You have a right to your momentum, and to exist. Grabbing, holding, blowing a guy up before the ball gets there—all of these are legitimate calls. Running over a guy because he suddenly stops because the QB left the ball 10 yards short is not. I'm really tired of plays on which the offense is bailed out when a terribly-thrown ball turns into 15 yards.

Defensive backs are corporeal beings! Let's treat them like that! I'm founding the We're Made Of Matter Too League.

LOLWUT. I'm with Heiko:

Michigan by 13.5 over Northwestern? That's higher than the opening line for Michigan vs. Minnesota.

Home/away yeah but Northwestern is competitive against teams not named Purdue. This does make me feel so much better about that game. PREVIEW PREVIEW: Not picking the spread this time, probably.

Oh, right, defense. The defense held Minnesota to 13 points and under 300 yards—though if pass interference penalties were credited as offensive yards they would have gone over—and other than some Jake Ryan chatter above this 4000-ish word post has nothing to say about it, because that's just what happens. Being seventh in yardage defense just happens. Hail Mattison.

Here

Inside The Boxscore:

It's Michigan versus Minnesota week, at Minnesota, which means one thing. A University of Michigan quarterback is going to have a career day. In 2008, Nick Sheridan was 18 of 30 for 203 yards and a 127.8 QB rating. In 2006, Chad Henne was 17 of 24 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and a QB rating of 211.5. That may not have been his best performance, but I don't ever remember seeing a QB rating greater than 200. In 2003, John Navarre was 33 for 47 for 353 yards and 2 TDs. During my college years, we put up these scoring numbers at Minnesota: 49, 52, 58, and 44 ('89, '91, '93, '96.)

I guess what I'm saying is, we shouldn't have been surprised by what transpired yesterday, but after that first quarter, I'm betting that I'm not the only one that was shocked by the next three quarters. After 9 consecutive TD-less quarters, we scored 5 in the next 3.

Elsewhere

Blog folk. MVictors also made the trip, where he took in the game from the resplendent comfort of the press box. He was also not impressed by Gopher timeliness, and reminded me that I was also astounded by how into the Kiss Cam everyone was.

Sap's Decals:

QUINTON WASHINGTON – To me it seemed like every time a Golden Gopher ball carrier got up from a run up the middle, Big Q was at the bottom of the pile. There may have been some questions about the strength of UM D-Line, but Washington is starting to clog up the middle, making it tough sledding for opponents to run on Michigan this year.

HSR:

I think one of the hardest things college football fans have to reconcile is the ephemeral nature of players.  When you consider depth charts, redshirting, and the like, we may get about three years with them at most, four if we're really lucky.  We get to know them, we come to appreciate them for what they can do, and then, like that, as quickly as they came, they are gone, leaving only memories, and occasionally questions of what might have been.

BWS:

Gardner looked like a Jim Tressel-led Terrelle Pryor: an athletic, tall quarterback being forced to play under center and make plays only when he's asked to while allowing the defense to carry the load. In this game, Gardner was able to do so, but this was against a Minnesota team that allowed 44 points to New Hampshire and 28 to Western Michigan and Purdue. Does Gardner's obvious improvement actually resemble a sustainable winning offense? That's debatable.

Tremendous bullets. Ditto TTB bullets. Maize and Blue Nation bulletsMaize and Go Blue recap. They're SEOing Drew Dileo's name into post URLs at SBN! (Don't bother with the "RESURGENT POWER RUNNING GAME?!?!?" comment if you hit up that article, as they have been taken care of.) Gopher takes from Fringe Bowl Team and Daily Gopher. I agree with TDG on Phillip Nelson—guy was extremely impressive. Holding the Rope column.

There is a flowering of "no QB controversy" posts, BTW: Maize and Go Blue has one, and the MZone leads with:

Repeat After Me: There is NO QB CONTROVERSY

After Devin Gardner's amazing game (minus the 1st quarter), I joked on Twitter that the easiest way to identify a so-called "Walmart Wolverine" on sports talk radio this week will be the guy calling in asking if there's a QB controversy now in A2.

There is not.

Devin was outstanding (minus the 1st quarter).  He was outstanding by any measure, but more so since he hadn't gotten any meaningful game reps at quarter back since... Illinois 2011?  But as soon as he's 100% again, Denard is Michigan's QB this season.  Period.

Also yes so hard

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Paid folk (and the Daily). Come on Baumgardner diviiiiiide and take into account connnnntext before you praise RB production. Numbers from same.  Michigan had its first consecutive 90-yard TD drives ever, which… like… wow.

Helfand:

When Michigan has needed to scramble this year, it has turned to Gardner.

Gardner was never really given a fair shake. He came in as a five-star recruit marooned behind a once-in-a-generation talent. Next year, he’ll have to compete with another hyped recruit, Shane Morris, who better fits Michigan’s pro-style system.

This year, he was asked to move to receiver, though it’s unclear whether he had a choice. The extent of his protest was to say he still considers himself a quarterback.

On Saturday, Michigan thrust him into uncharted territory: a wide receiver given one week to prepare for quarterback. There was little run game to bail him out, and even with Robinson, Michigan hadn’t scored a touchdown in two games. Gardner had taken reps at quarterback in his first two years, but he had to learn new protections and run packages in days.

“I was pretty nervous coming in to know how I would handle that,” Gardner said. “But I feel like I handled it pretty well.”

Meinke:

It looked as though Gardner, a junior who moved to receiver following two seasons as Robinson's backup, was back at home -- and he said that's exactly how he felt.

"I play quarterback," he said, "so I feel good."

Is it possible Gardner is a better quarterback, now that he doesn't play quarterback?

Absolutely.

Comments

OmarDontScare

November 5th, 2012 at 12:46 PM ^

No offense but I don't think you're giving Gardner enough credit. I mean, did you see the Nebraska game?

He's spent all year at WR and played like he did on Saturday with one week to prepare. My biggest takeaway was his calm pocket presence and knowing when to take off. He is by no means Vince Young (TX version) but many of his scrambles looked similar.

profitgoblue

November 5th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

Lets not get crazy.  Devin threw some good completions on Saturday but the majority of them were broken plays with WRs that were very, very open.  And his scrambling is as yakity sax as it gets.  No way is he anywhere near the QB Denard is and its the reason is obvious - if he were, he would be the clear backup QB and not have been transferred to WR this season (regardless of the need for playmakers at that position).  If a backup is a day-to-day challenger for the starting position, you don't take that guy and move him to a different position.  That makes no sense.

HAIL-YEA

November 6th, 2012 at 2:26 AM ^

. He was moved because we needed him desparatly at wr this season.  Roundtree was non-existant last year and Gallon is to small to be a #1. We already know Hoke likes big wr's ..There's no way Hoke could not start Denard at qb anyway, so thats why he figured he could move DG to wr for the year.

It cracks me up how Brian is so quick to pooh on Devin's day and credit everyone but Gardner. Anyone who watches can tell you this Minnesota D is much better than they were last year. Gardner took over the O that had not scored a td in the last 2 games..the entire unit had been playing poorly. Because DG was able to make throws that Denard could never make the safeties backed off and we could run against 6-7 man boxes in the 2nd half.

Of course I'd still ratcher have a healthy senior Denard but DG deserves credt.  Guys has always done everything asked of him. He came out in his first ever srart with very little prep in mid season and owned it. Think about what he just did, last week he was soo unprepared that even after Bellomy's 3rd pick the coaches never considered putting Devin in at qb. He had been at wr too long..one week later and he does this. 

chitownblue2

November 5th, 2012 at 12:57 PM ^

If we're trying to be journalistic in our approach to blogging, I think you should note that Narduzzi's comment regarding Denard was in response to a reporter explicitly asking him to compare Denard to Martinez. We may dislike his answer, but it's hardly a burn when he, you know, answered a direct question.

The REAL burn is the next sentence, when he calls both Martinez and Braxton Miller "tailbacks".

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2012 at 1:08 PM ^

He's just answering a question and it's his opinion, but you have to admit he seems as though he is just trying to stick it to UM there. I mean, if you watched the game (or any of Nebraska's games)  it is painfullly clear that Martinez is not even close to as fast as Denard. 

In four years of watching Denard play I have never seen him caught from behind in a race to the endzone, whether a guy has an angle or not. Martinez has been caught from behind quite often when the only thing between him and the enzone is grass. I think it was Dennard who tracked him down in the game Saturday with Martinez a good 10 yards directly in front of him and running for the endzone. If he can't outrun Dennard, he can't out run Denard, plain and simple.

I think Narduzzi knows this, but just couldn't bring himself to give anything from UM any credit at all.

Everyone Murders

November 5th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

That's a fair point to raise.  However, the reporter did not ask Narduzzi to compare Denard to Usain Bolt.  (Yes, I know that Denard said something along the lines of his 40 time being better than Bolt's - which is coming from a state champion track star and could well be true.)  Narduzzi's snotty comment re: "even though [Denard] thinks he's faster than Bolt" was 100% Pure Colombian Douchebaggery. 

Narduzzi answered a direct question, but couldn't help taking a cheap shot at Denard while doing so.  Consequently, IMO Brian's point remains valid.  I.e., Narduzzi's an ass. 

jmdblue

November 5th, 2012 at 2:09 PM ^

Denard is answering a question.  Bringing up the "faster than Bolt" thing is another example of that regime acting more like fans than coaches.  I half expect to see Dantonio et. al., holding high their cans of Natty Light, cheering while a match descends toward the condemned (sofa).

chitownblue2

November 5th, 2012 at 12:58 PM ^

One big takeaway from this game, though, should be how earth-shatteringly good a runner Denard is - he's essentially masked this pretty terrible run-game all year by himself.

MosherJordan

November 5th, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

Not to take anything away from Denard, but to be fair to the RBs in this comparison, when Denard runs he has an extra blocker while when Tousaint or Rawls runs they don't. That's the whole point of having a running QB, you get an extra blocker. I still think Denard would have a higher ypc than any of our RBs if he lined up as a true RB with Gardner under center, but losing a blocker would have to hurt Denard's ypc. 

Colt McBaby Jesus

November 5th, 2012 at 2:57 PM ^

In thoses instances, yes, Denard has an extra blocker. However, the point of the option is that someone on the defense has to be responsible for the QB, as opposed the the I-Form where the QB turns and hands off. So, while Denard isn't actually blocking a guy, he is taking someone out of the play that would otherwise be trying to get the tailback.

Moral of the story is that the tailback and the QB have the same number of blockers, and Denard is better than our running backs at getting yards with terrible blocking.

MGoNY

November 5th, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

Yeah, everyone is getting way ahead of themselves praising Gardner when his performance seemed split about 50/50 between yakety sax (but good!) and receivers bailing Gardner out on balls they have no business catching. 

 

after scoring 35 points with the backup qb you not only crap all over said qb but the receivers as well? i doubt you would have that type of reaction if denard played with the same results.

WolverineFanatic6

November 5th, 2012 at 1:09 PM ^

Clearly there isn't a quarterback controversy. However what is clear is that DG has more pocket poise and a better grasp on when to scramble which is huge in generating first downs on 3rd and 5+. The game plan with Denard all year has been east and west zone read and veer type plays while with DG we witnessed a lot more pro style which I thought was a good plan by Borges and one I'd like to see illustrated going forward.

I would really like to see Borges break out the 2 qb full house formation at some point before Ohio so it gives them more to prepare for.

Great win and a big confidence booster for DG. I'm almost positive he will be allowed to play qb next year unless sugar Shane Morris is already better, which I cannot see. Also a big confidence booster to the fan base cause I was worried if Denard we t down we'd go all Maryland and start Royce Jenkins stone lol./s

OmarDontScare

November 5th, 2012 at 1:20 PM ^

Agree with this. Also, considering he did this with an awful running game and against (statistically) the best pass D in the conference is very impressive to me. I know it's Minnesota and all but still.

Denard is of course the starter when healthy but I feel much better about 2013 than I did last week at this time. I thought there was still a slim chance Gardner would get his Medical RS. Are we just completely giving up on this now? (QBForce.com Fist Shake!!)

NYC Blue

November 5th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

I think it was a really good performance by Devin.  It was certainly better than I expected.  I totally agree that it gives me more hope for next year.

But Brian (and others) have made points worth considering.  The long TD to Dileo was a great play made by Gardner because he extended the play with his scramble, but the throw itself was made without setting his feet and made to a wide open receiver (i.e. a totally blown coverage) so you can't really say that he threw a dart to him.  Give him points for keeping the play alive, and for having a strong arm, but is that the type of play that is really reproducible?  I remember a similar wild scramble later in the game where Minnesota did not blow the coverage where Gardner wound up.. (er, actually I forgot if he took the loss or threw it away in the end).

I was actually more impressed with the strike he threw to Gallon in stride down the sideline- that one was in the face of a picked up blitz on a double move.  Not a TD throw, but I thought a far better play- better pass- that I want to see out of our QB.

Again, it was without a doubt a quality performance.  But it was one performance, and it was not the all star performance that some seem to be making it into.  I hope it is the first of many quality games we see from Devin, and that he continues to improve.  He certainly has the talent to do so.

I hope he gets his redshirt, but there has been some stuff posted lately that the staff is not optimistic about this. 

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 5th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

Yes, the Dileo play is reproducible.  Why woudln't it be?

For a good primer on 2012 context, take a look at Marcus Mariota's stats.  The guy is a very credible running threat, runs the most high-octane offense in the country, and is completing 70.4% of his passes.  He was 20 for 23 at USC last Saturday. He's thrown 5 picks all year, and 22 TDs. 

As a freshman.

State Street

November 5th, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

I have a strange feeling that we won't be seeing Denard for a while.  Considering Bellomy is most likely done for the year per Hoke's press conference just now, please for the love of Jack Kennedy's ego and our sanity pray that Devin Gardner is made of titanium.

MGoShoe

November 5th, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

...the key graf of that Meinke piece:

But Gardner says his foray at receiver actually bolstered his skills at quarterback. "Playing receiver, you know what kinds of balls you don't like," he said. "It really helps in practice because when you throw a bad ball, you have to re-do it, and you get really tired re-running routes. A quarterback doesn't really get tired because he's only dropping back. It just helps me appreciate what they do."

So for Gardner, learning to execute the route trees as a wideout has given him a better appreciation for how to approach the passing game as a quarterback. Did he get bailed out by his receivers on occasion? Sure. Perhaps his balls didn't hit the receivers in stride every time, but they sure were close enough that they were able to be snagged. I guess the Hennechart will tell the tale, but the difference may be that Gardner's poorly thrown balls were a little less poorly thrown than Denard's poorly thrown balls.

All in all, his performance certainly gives hope that 2013 will feature a quarterback with the skill and stature needed to execute the Borges offense. That said, with no more Denard magic to bail out the run game, the key to offensive success will be the degree to which OL play improves or doesn't improve.

jmdblue

November 5th, 2012 at 1:20 PM ^

1) Denard's elbow heals completely and he, along with Jake Ryan, leads us to an inspired victory over Ohio

2) Our O-line takes what is sure to be a rough week to heart and they finish the season by overperfoming in the manner they have most of the season (see Ohio thought above)

3 The powers that be in E. Lansing don't do anything to limit Sparty's inclination to utilize social media.

Logan88

November 5th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

While I agree that Devin wasn't quite as awesome as some are lauding his performance to be, I can't help but shake my head when I read Brian's synopsis of Gardner as a passer in this game in light of the leeway he has accorded Denard this season.

This was Devin's first collegiate start after getting very few reps at QB for weeks (maybe the entire season) and he looked better passing the ball than Denard has in any game this season.

Denard is still the starter when he is healthy, of course, but Devin is already a more dangerous passing threat than Denard and there is at least some hope that UM will have a more balanced offense in 2013 (OL concerns may negatively impact this, however). Personally, I look forward to seeing it.

dahblue

November 5th, 2012 at 1:58 PM ^

I found an old photo of Brian on the interwebs:

Seems that Silky can find any excuse for why an errant Denard throw is someone else's fault, but receivers "bailed out" Devin?  Silky saw a old video of Devin making a great catch and then favored a move to WR.  One play.  Then, Devin jumps from WR to QB in one week, has a solid game...and that's not good enough for Silky because it was "only against Minnesota" (rather than a high school team).

Why be the turd in the punchbowl?  Be happy.  Devin at least deserves as much praise as Brian has showered upon Bellomy.  Which reminds me...how many excuses were made for Bellomy's terrible showing against Nebraska?  Props to Devin; he's going to do a great job running the team next year.

Tauro

November 5th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

I also think Gardner did much better than Brian thinks.  There were two plays where Minnesota was offsides and he recognized it both times attempting a sideline pass deep to Roundtree on both occasions.  One was well-defended, the other was the pass interference play.  Devin also started to handle the pressure better throughout the game.  He was sacked twice early, but recognized the rush better as the game went on.

Certainly there were a few throws behind the receiver or a little short - room for improvement - but his TD pass to Jet Booted Gallon was put in a place where only the receiver could catch it (something you want).  Gallon made a great catch, certainly, but the throw was where I would expect it to be.

I was not expecting polished QB play, but was largely impressed with what I saw.  I think it gives teams next year something to really think about.

NYC Blue

November 5th, 2012 at 3:03 PM ^

Excellent point that I have to second.  I remember thinking the same thing during the game.  I was very happy to see him recognize and take advantage of the free plays when they were given.  That is definitely something that Denard was not doing. 

Again, I think I have tended to downplay some of the credit given to Gardner, but this was definitely something he deserved a lot of credit for, especially as I think it is a particularly veteran move.

 

mGrowOld

November 5th, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

I think I can clear up the pass interference v no pass interference question Brian raised.

If the pass is thrown by the home team and there is ANY percieved contact whatsoever between reciever and defender and the pass falls incomplete = Pass Interference

If the pass is thrown by the visiting team and there is contact resulting in something less than a double amputation by the defender and the ball falls incomplete = great defense  & no pass interference

This is the one call, IMO, more influenced by a home crowd than any other in the game.

The FannMan

November 5th, 2012 at 5:38 PM ^

Your point is true - unless the call would go against Michigan State and cause fans in the greater Big Ten viewing area to state, laugh, yell, text, tweet and/or blog "SPARTY NOOOOOO."  This is known as a "SPARTY NOOOOO Event."  

If a call (good, bad or complete BS) would cause a "SPARTY NOOOOOO Event," then the call must be made against MSU.  There is no discretion and the play may not be reviewed.  (There is some consideration of allowing the replay official to check MGoBlog, or other B1G fan blogs, to make sure there has been a SPARTY NOOOOO reaction.  However, there is a legitimate concern that the replay official will never respond and will just continue to read MoGoBlog or BHGP rather than return to the crap-fest that is Spartan football.)

 Sadly, a SPARTY NOOOOO Event is such an fundamental part of Big Ten Football, that it doesn't matter who suffers as collateral damage.  A SPARTY NOOOOO Event is a force of nature that cannot be stopped or even contained.  Thus, the PI call that allowed Nebraska to win on Saturday is entirely within the accepted rules of college football, even though it went aganst the home team.

Ed Shuttlesworth

November 5th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

I saw the same thing with Brian's analysis.  All ambiguties in the passing game decided in Denard's favor and against Gardner.  That's just the way it's going to be, and I'll savor it as part of the spice of blogsurfing and life.  

Gardner has more pocket presence than Denard, and throws better, more effective passes than Denard -- and this after barely working as a quarterback in the last 12 months.  Obviously, Gardner isn't as good a pure runner as Denard which, given the deficiencies in our running game, makes Denard the right guy to finish the year.  

 

gbdub

November 5th, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

Part of what makes Minn's pass D statistically great is that a) they played a really weak OOC schedule and b) everyone else has been able to run at will on them, making passing unnecessary. Nothing I saw on Saturday made Minn look like an elite or even above average pass defense.

UMaD

November 5th, 2012 at 3:03 PM ^

is something the FEI rank supposedly does.  According to that measure, Minnesota is the #60 defense in the country, right beside Illinois, Texas, Purdue, North Carolina, Clemson.

They may not be top 10, but they're a decent defense overall.

Hardware Sushi

November 5th, 2012 at 2:14 PM ^

THE BEST part of the Johnny Adams/Kenny Bell gif is Bell's reaction.

His arms just go limp and his shoulders slouch down like "Wothafuckman. You gotta be kidding me."

Adams was not kidding him. Seems like the 2012 Sparty motto is 60 minutes of unnecessary diving and a week of hilarious tweets.

Section 1

November 5th, 2012 at 5:44 PM ^

The "Giffy" award, presented to the .gif of the year.

Johnny Adams, come on down!

Johnny Adams' winning the 2012 Giffy marks the first time this century that the award was not claimed by a player in the Italian premier soccer league, known as Serie A.

OysterMonkey

November 5th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

I can't believe this post doesn't have an "Inevitable Reading Comprehension Fail" tag.

EDIT: I'm going to expand on this. I can't believe how many reading fails are in this thread's comments.

Brian said his reaction to Gardner was on the conservative end of the spectrum, comparing his assessment to people who described Devin's performance thusly: "Amazing", "Stellar",  "WOW!", and "made Denard look utterly expendable."

I don't think that saying that level of praise might be a little overboard is being too critical of Gardner. Good god, people. Read. It isn't that hard.