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September 21, 2013

Devin Gardner out to make amends

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was in no mood to celebrate the Wolverines' 28-24 win over Akron last week, spending much of his time apologizing for four turnovers that left the game in doubt until the final play. He spent Monday answering questions about his inconsistent play and insisting it wouldn't happen again.

Head coach Brady Hoke insisted he wouldn't shrink the playbook despite Gardner's struggles on his own side of the field. He told his quarterback how much they needed him, and that their confidence in him hadn't waned.

"Sometimes when you make that first mistake you want to overcome it and you want to make another good play, especially if you're competitive," Hoke said. "Sometimes you force it maybe instead of letting the game come to you.

"Every game is a little different because of what they give you. They're not all just on him [either]. The routes might be cut short or there's not a right route run in there, and there's probably a little pressure sometimes. Someone gets in your face."

Getting back on the field helps, he added, and Gardner said Wednesday he couldn't wait. He's got six interceptions and freshman Shane Morris has one - only two schools have eight - and a pick six in each of the last two games that were game changers.

"This week has been so long, and we're only halfway through it," Gardner said with a grin. "When you play bad, the week moves so slow, and when you play good, it moves so fast. I just can't wait to be back on the field. And then we have an eight o'clock game, so it makes it even longer.

"I definitely have to play better. We haven't been a great road team. It's going to be an exciting game, and the whole world is going to be able to watch us redeem ourselves from a poor performance last week."

He stopped short of guaranteeing it, though he did promise immediately after the Akron win "it wouldn't happen again." Fifth-year senior offensive tackle and captain Taylor Lewan backed him up, calling the performance "embarrassing."

Gardner, too, got support from two of his friends in the quarterback fraternity. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd befriended him at the Manning Passing Academy this summer, and both texted him after the Notre Dame and Akron games, the latter message to keep his head up and move forward.

"All things were not going well for us, and we're going to try to make sure that never happens again," Gardner said. "It starts with me. My mistakes and then others making mistakes, they kept compounding. That's one thing we can't do. It has to be me that picks us up when mistakes are being made to make sure we turn it all around.

"I made sure I completed every play in the practice [this week]. That's all it takes to move forward. You can't dwell on a game where we won. You watch the film and improve and move forward from it."

At the same time making sure not to make the same mistakes he's made in the last three games while trying to keep plays alive.

"Those are the plays you have to use good judgment on," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "When do I cut my losses? There's a fine line between being a playmaker and making a bad decision. Sometimes the playmakers step over that line and sometimes the playmakers supposedly step over that line and make a play.

"As a coach, you make sure you keep him aggressive. You can't scare him into playing cautiously, but by the same token, know you have to use discretion, and you have to keep us out of trouble."

Borges is confident he will Saturday night. Until he does, Michigan will struggle to put any opponent away, no matter where they're rated.


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