It wasn’t always pretty, but it was what the team needed. A victory. That was the mindset in the locker room after the Wolverines’ 34-10 victory over Miami (OH) Saturday. After last weekend’s woeful performance at Notre Dame, Devin Gardner and company were anxious to get a good taste back in their mouths.
“We talked about it all week that we didn’t want to let Notre Dame beat us twice and wanted to come back and respond,” said Gardner. “Last week was a time where we didn’t respond as well as we should have.”
“The week of practice was really good. We prepared well and I feel like as a team, our brotherhood was still intact. Everybody took responsibility of what they could’ve done better and we just worked on it this week and I feel like that really helped us today.”
The offense sputtered early in the game thanks in large part to three first half turnovers. While tThe angst from the crowd was obvious, Gardner and company never felt out of sorts.
“I feel really comfortable,” he said. “Today I felt like even though we weren’t converting on third down in the first half the way we wanted to, I felt like I didn’t press. Last game I pressed a little bit and that hurt us. I feel like kept with the game plan and kept the fundamentals and the things that I’ve been taught to do and it worked out for us. I feel like if I do that every game we’ll be fine.”
Gardner was instrumental in maintaining that sense of calm through all of the self-inflicted setbacks. His words of encouragement were just what sophomore wideout Amara Darboh needed after his first quarter fumble.
“I was trying to get low and I guess (the Miami defender) got lower than me, and the ball popped out,” recalled Darboh. “It was rough that it happened, but I had guys and coaches, Devin Gardner and everyone keeping me up, move on, next play.”
“(Gardner) was great in the huddle, especially towards me after the fumble. He kept our heads up and told us to move on and then he said things like this is going to happen during the game. We need to bounce back from it and I think that helped us a lot.”
While it’s clear the unit has a long way to go to become the type of consistent attack it wants to be, the early adversity revealed the benefits of all of the offseason work on improving chemistry.
“We just kept each other up on the sideline,” said Gardner. “That’s why we’re a team. That’s why (football is) the greatest team sport.”
“We didn’t press. We just stuck with what we were doing. We ran the ball. We passed the ball and tried to keep them off balance as much as possible and it worked out.”