Lurching into The Game

By Kyle Rowland on November 27, 2013 at 9:15a
Thanks to an inept offense, Brady Hoke's seat is warming up. [MGoBlog/Fuller photo]

It was Saturday night, the entire nation watching. Michigan passed its first close-up of the 2013 football season with an exemplary grade. The Wolverines were up 27-13 at halftime on defending national runner-up Notre Dame. Most noteworthy for Michigan, however, was the performance of Devin Gardner.

There were some second-half turnovers – more on those later – but Gardner also completed 21-of-33 pass attempts for 294 yards and four touchdowns. He added 82 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. The five scores equaled the school record. Michigan found its quarterback.

But the slide started soon after, even though it would be another month before the Wolverines lost a game. The week after the Notre Dame game, Michigan needed a goal-line stand to beat woeful Akron. A week after that, a fourth-quarter rally extinguished what would have been one of the upsets of the season by one-win Connecticut.

In the spotlight because of his position and propensity at turning the ball over is Gardner. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and lost five fumbles.

“You just have to get to him,” Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “He seems like he gets flustered, but he has a lot of talent. When you let him sit in the pocket, he can make some plays. He can scramble and he can run, too. You just have to bring pressure to him and let him know you’re there.”

Lewan came back for this. [MGoBlog/Fuller photo]

After losing in quadruple overtime at Penn State, Michigan rebounded with an historic outing against Indiana. The Wolverines put up a school-record 751 yards of offense and Gardner set school records with 584 total yards and 503 yards passing while matching the five touchdowns against the Irish. Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten record with 369 yards receiving.

Michigan is 1-3 since that day, the lone win an improbable triple-overtime thriller at Northwestern.

“We get a nine-yard gain, then we take a step back. Or, we’ve got good protection and don’t finish the throw or execute the throw or catch the football,” head coach Brady Hoke said.

The latest blunder came last Saturday at Iowa, where the Wolverines squandered five turnovers and blew a 14-point second-half lead. In regulation in the month of November, the offense has scored six, nine, 13 and 21 points. During that same span, Gardner is averaging 182.5 yards passing and has lost minus-47 yards rushing. But the offensive line hasn’t protected him much as they’ve allowed 20 sacks in November alone.

Gardner was nearly in tears following the Iowa game after he fumbled on Michigan’s final offensive possession. For the day, Gardner totaled 98 passing yards and 12 rushing yards.

“He’s got a lot of pride,” Hoke said. “If there’s a bigger critic on Devin than Devin, I don’t know who it is. I’d rather have a guy be that way than point a finger somewhere else. We’re all in this together.

“He knows we have a strong faith in what he can do.”

It seems that Gardner’s potential is limitless. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can be very effective throwing the ball. Decision-making has been an Achilles heel the past two seasons, though.

“I think he’s had some really good moments, and some moments he would rather re-do if he could. But I think we all have that. I do as the head coach,” Hoke said. “The one thing about Devin is that he’s been pretty resilient. He is a guy who comes to work every day and prepares to get ready to play and play his best.”

Drawing a bulk of the criticism from fans for the stagnant offense is coordinator Al Borges. During his 27-year career, Borges has directed offenses at Oregon, Auburn, Boise State, UCLA and Cal, among others. He said he’s never seen a four-game string of ineptitude quite like the one the Wolverines are currently mired in.

“If I internalized everything a fan said, I’d slit my wrists.” — Al Borges

But he’s not letting outside disapproval impact him. Borges told reporters on Tuesday that his first name has been a cuss word in other cities. It’s trending that way inn Ann Arbor and could reach four-letter status.

“If I internalized everything a fan said, I’d slit my wrists,” Borges said matter-of-factly. “You can’t do that. This job is about being thick-skinned. We win games, and people still complain. That’s the nature of the job. That’s why they pay us and we do what we do. We have to be beyond all that. We have to be stronger than that.

“This isn’t the first place where it’s been like that. That just goes along with the job. You’re never going to make everybody happy. You do your best to help your team win. That’s all.”

Borges said he hasn’t subscribed to a newspaper in 20 years, ever since Boise State stumbled to a 3-8 record in 1993. When the wins deteriorated, negative press mounted and that was that. No newspapers since for Borges – or talk radio. He said it will only make a coach miserable (Of note, the Broncos rebounded in 1994 and lost to the Jim Tressel-led Youngstown State Penguins in the Division 1-AA national championship game).

Then, there’s Michigan’s offensive line. Their inefficient play hangs over the Wolverines’ entire offense like a black cloud on a wedding day – 123rd nationally out of 123 in tackles for loss allowed, 100th in rushing offense and 95th in total offense. Michigan has surrendered an astounding 103 tackles for loss in 11 games.

The interior offensive line has been rearranged more frequently than Madison Square Garden’s basketball court. Graham Glasgow, Jack Miller, Kyle Kalis. Miller, Chris Bryant, Joey Burzynski and Erik Magnuson have all been ushered in at one time or another.

Through it all, Hoke is resolute and confident.

“Honestly, we’re a pretty good football team,” he said.


Comments Show All Comments

FitzBuck's picture

“Honestly, we’re a pretty good football team,” he said.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Larryp713's picture

I will never feel comfortable about this Game. The 90's ripped all cockiness out of my being. I will always start the game with anxiety, and feel way too much joy when the Buckeyes rightfully pound a subpar team into the turf.
That's why this is THE GAME!!!



dubjayfootball90's picture

Right there with ya, _an

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Bucksfan's picture

Those games happened almost 20 years ago...

Earle's picture

Feels like yesterday...

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Buckeye419er's picture

If by pretty good you _ean horrible then I co_pletely and whole heartedly agree

There can be only one

Stinson's picture

I thought the Penn State game went into 4 OTs?

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

FitzBuck's picture

How bad does that assistant's job suck.  Granted he only has to work about 5 minutes a season due to Hokes lack of headset use but he did poop his pants during the game last year. 
I feel for the kid.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

FitzBuck's picture

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

Denny's picture

I've already started wondering what bad life decisions that poor man made to end up where he is today.


Seattle Linga's picture

Drawing a bulk of the criticism from fans for the stagnant offense is coordinator Al Borges. During his 27-year career, Borges has directed offenses at Oregon, Auburn, Boise State, UCLA and Cal, among others. He said he’s never seen a four-game string of ineptitude quite like the one the Wolverines are currently mired in.
Note to Editor: You'll need to edit this to FIVE-Games on Sunday morning !!

andretolstoy's picture

I understand ScuM has hit some woes as of late, but our lack of soberness regarding The Game this year has me a bit unnerved. Michigan is going to play lights out this Saturday. They're due for a big game. If our boys are not sober to this fact, we can most certainly get nipped.
Moreover, these last three games - Michigan - MState - Bowl Game (NC or not) are going to be the three toughest - biggest games of this season. These facts should have us on our toes and itching for a fight, and not the sort of 2006 pre-NC cockiness that I am sensing right now.

Oyster's picture

If Cooper was still there, I would agree.  However, Tressel brought OSU back to the mindset of winning and Meyer has them focused.   

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Furious George 27's picture

I really hope _ichigan was not waiting for this game to play its best football of the season. I am pretty sure they were trying to win the games they lost.... They are just horrible, you could say OSU would have to play its worst game to lose. But what would OSU's worst game have to look like? Iowa gave them 5 turnovers and a 14 point lead and still came back to win.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

yrro's picture

Agreed. I'm confident in our abilities, but I'm never confident in the game. Even RR's teams managed to keep it close for a half, and we were losing at halftime last year.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Where are you sensing it from? The team, or people who post here?
Fans are going to say what they want, but let's not pretend it has a real impact.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

IGotAWoody's picture

I was going to say the same thing, Chuck! What you read on here or from fans elsewhere has NOTHING to do with where the TEAM's mindset is. Unless you've heard something from the team that you're referring to....

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

buckeyepastor's picture

This is a year where if OSU played Michigan 20 times, we would win at least 19 out of 20.  We just have to make sure that Saturday isn't the one day since the ND game where Michigan somehow brings it all together.  I will enjoy this game, and I've enjoyed watching Michigan stumble.  But I'll probably not be relaxed about it until we've got a big lead in the second half.   I know that with our current coach and staff there's no cause for alarm, but I can't get those Cooper years out of my system.  It's like a nagging virus.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Oyster's picture

But I'll probably not be relaxed about it until we've got a big lead in the second half quarter. 
I think you had a typo in your post.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Lumpy Rutherford's picture

There is some talent on that team up north. We need 100% focus and 150% effort for the whole game. I would HATE to have our win streak broken up there.

mshaf's picture

I have a strong feeling Bosa and Spence will be all over Gardner. I see 5 sacks 2 int`s for our defense

BoFuquel's picture

You can't win'em all, if you don't win this one. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Grayskullsession's picture

Do not worry my friends. The Cooper era is and was over a while ago. We have a coach, like Tressel, who understands the rivalry and won't underestimate the tenacity of rival opponents. Be prepared for a Buckeye team coming out guns blazing.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

Larryp713's picture

Our key to victory lies in this - bringing the house early and often against that maligned offensive line and always-frettin' Devin! I cannot see how that O-line will be able to stop Bennet, Spence, Bosa, Diesel, Shazier, Roby off the corner, Marcus, etc... If Fickell continues the trend of bringing pressure early and often, I really struggle to see how we lose this game. I just don't think they have an answer.
If we do get put on our heels, they might keep it close. I hope the Buckeyes come out swinging early.



ajohnson62's picture

Great job photo-shopping a headset on Hoke.  So realistic.
Anything less than a 21 point drubbing would be a disappointment.  I can't see them scoring more than 10 and there is no way they hold us under 40.  I'm no mathematician, but I think that is more than 21.  Go Bucks!

"I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!"

CLT Silver Bullet's picture

Still have some nervous feelings for this game, but I think with the low temps it is going to play into our favor even more.  Trying to tackle Hyde behind our great O-Line is tough enough, try doing it 25-30 times when it is 30 degrees outside.  If we don't turn the ball over, I don't see how we lose to this team.  Go Bucks!

CowCat's picture

Hyde left, Hyde center, Hyde right ... and I think we'll be OK.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

Ethos's picture

I Just want to see our FRESHMAN Bosa just Bowl over Lewan.  I would laugh my ass off.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Rjpfish2's picture

Prepare to laugh my friend. I bet ole Joey gets around that parking cone at least once.

harleymanjax's picture

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Seattle Linga's picture

3 days and counting

aabuckeye's picture

Yeah, the team that almost lost to Akron and UConn, might get an upset. Don't think so. They might have talent, but they don't seem to know how to develop or motivate it. TTUN will lose by at least 30 points.