It didn't take long for the Douglas, Georgia native to show off his accuracy and arm strength. After opening the game with a 9 yard completion to DeVante Parker and a 4-yard run by Dominique Brown, Gardner dropped back in the pocket, surveyed the defense and found James Quick streaking down the sideline for a 62-yard touchdown pass.
"That was exciting," Gardner said of the touchdown. "We said in the huddle going out there that we wanted to set the tone early, so that was exciting. I think was the third play of that drive, so it was exciting to set the tone early."
Gardner completed his first 7 attempts before finishing the first quarter completing 10 of 12 for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's 60 more yards than his current career total of 112 yards.
If he was nervous, he didn't show it.
"I just looked at it as another scrimmage in the spring," he said afterward. "It felt good having the fans out there and adding some excitement to it, but it was good. I wasn't really nervous."
He would finish the night with just 5 incompletions and one overthrown ball that resulted in an interception. His final numbers in the 56-13 victory were very reminiscent of a Bobby Petrino directed quarterback, going 32 of 37 for 542 yards and 4 touchdowns.
"It was good to see Will in command of the offense," Petrino said. "I like the way he carried himself. I like the way he took charge of the huddle. He looked comfortable in delivering the football and for the most part was very accurate with his throws."
Gardner connected with seven different targets, led by senior All-American receiver DeVante Parker's 10 receptions for 109 yards. Quick led all with 152 receiving yards on 5 catches, while tight end Gerald Christian hauled in 8 catches for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Eli Rogers had 6 for 109 yards and a score.
"We have a lot of play-makers and it's hard to distribute the ball to everyone because we have so many," Gardner said. "It makes a quarterbacks job easier when have guys like that and so many of them."
Quick, who also had 9 yards on a reverse, was impressed by Gardner's performance
"I feel Will played a great game," said Quick. "He played a well-rounded game and threw the ball well.
"It's different, but I enjoy it. I got a great group of support around me. Great teammates and they all support me, so it's good."
Following an impressive spring practice that saw him quickly solidify his place a top the depth chart and display the type of leadership to direct a high-powered offense, Gardner will remain focused on improving through the spring and summer months.
"I got to grow in the play book and become more confident," he said. "Hit the weight room hard all off season and just get bigger and stronger."