ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Not pretty.
What began as an encouraging evening, Gardner completing his first six pass attempts to start the game, quickly escalated into an offensive line that couldn’t handle the Notre Dame pressure and the same mistakes No. 98 made a year ago.
Gardner accounted for three interceptions and a lost fumble, as the offense couldn’t rebound from negative plays and little consistency.
Even so, Michigan coach Brady Hoke stuck with Gardner throughout the game and stood by him again Monday afternoon.
“He understands and realizes that if he’s going to run the ball you’ve got to have better ball security,” Hoke said. “He understands that if he pre-snap reads something, there’s also a progression from there that he’s got to do a better job with.
“But he also made about five throws in there that were pretty special.”
And the lackluster offensive performance doesn’t solely rest on the shoulders of Gardner, or ever one player in general.
But as Michigan first year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier pointed out Monday after Hoke stepped down from the podium, one player on the wrong page can cause major issues and it’s his job not only to get Gardner going but to get his entire unit to work as one moving forward.
“We’re still in the infancy stages here,” Nussmeier said. “We’re still learning to play consistently well and continue to hit on that because like I said before we play well in stretches and it showed in that game.
“You can see where we get movement, we create things, we move the ball, and we lack that consistency. That’s going to be a growth process that is something we work everyday in practice on and continue to talk about.
“It’s about 11 guys on every play doing the right thing and you just can’t play a quality opponent like Notre Dame, if it’s 10 guys doing the right thing, one guy doing the wrong thing, you’re doomed so, we’ve got to get 11 guys on every play doing the right thing.”
Gardner finished the game 19-of-32 passing for 189-yards including the four turnovers, all the while being sacked twice by the Notre Dame defense.
Despite all of the negatives and lack of consistent productivity, Hoke added Monday he still has plenty of confidence his fifth-year quarterback with encouraging messages on the sideline Saturday.
“It certainly is that we believe in him,” Hoke said. “It certainly is that you go through your progressions. I think that’s another thing that’s great about having (Doug Nussmeier) down on the field.”
That open line of communication between Gardner and Nussmeier continues to be a work in progress as well.
“Devin obviously did some things that neither of us really wanted, but that happens,” Nussmeier said. “And it’s all about the process of learning, of going through reads, going through progressions, what’d you see? Where do your eyes and feet need to be?
“He’s growing. And we’re growing together. It’s the second game I’ve been with him so there’s things I need to do better for sure.”
No Shane Morris?
One start is all that Michigan sophomore quarterback Shane Morris has under his belt in Ann Arbor.
Regardless, based on the performance out of starter Devin Gardner on Saturday night at Notre Dame, and given the situation, down 31-0 late in the fourth quarter, some wonder why exactly Morris didn’t at least get a few snaps.
Doug Nussmeier was asked about that decision Monday, offering plenty of praise for the fellow lefthander.
“I thought Shane had a great week of practice,” Nussmeier said. “And Shane has done an outstanding job.
“I’ve said before, we feel very comfortable with Shane playing. The way the game went forward and the way the game played out, we felt like it was the best thing to leave Devin in the game.”