EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A 17.5 point spread and seemingly no one believing Michigan could win at Michigan State Saturday, there was one way it could’ve be possible, and that was if senior quarterback Devin Gardner had the performance of his life.
Gardner didn’t and the Wolverines wilted, falling 35-11 at Spartan Stadium.
But it wasn’t all on Gardner either. Wide receivers dropping passes left and right including a big one to start the second half on a go route by Amara Darboh, followed two plays later by Devin Funchess.
Funchess actually had quite a few opportunities to make plays throughout the day, unable to bring the football in on balls that Gardner delivered in his catching radius.
"There were some (missed chances) in execution and making plays,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said afterward. “Especially In games like this, the team that makes the most plays, breaks a tackle, has a good run, makes a catch, those things.
“We had some opportunities, some shots at some big plays. That changes the momentum, but we've got to finish and we've got to execute."
Michigan just couldn’t, putting up 186-yards of total offense and just 13 first downs despite beginning multiple drives inside Michigan State territory.
And then there were the turnovers, which Gardner was culpable for.
Gardner committed three more including a fumble that was simply dropped upon receiving the snap, recovered by the Spartans.
"I think we've got some fixing to do,” Hoke said. “There's no doubt that Doug and the offensive staff and the players as much as anything will go back to work and work hard to make it better."
Undoubtedly the play that really seemed to be the beginning of the end was the pick six thrown by Gardner to safety R.J. Williamson.
Limited pressure pushing him to his right, Gardner lofted the football in the air as Williamson came up to snatch it and return it the other way for the score to make the game 21-3 in the third quarter.
"He's constantly trying to make a play,” Hoke said. “I think the pick-six was a pretty athletic play in some regards by the defender. He tried to maybe put it in there in a small window.
“I think part of it is, he's aggressive. He believes in himself and believes in making plays. (On the pitch play), I think he thought he had something there or he wouldn't have done it.”
One of the more confusing moments of the night came late in the fourth quarter, the game well in hand for Michigan State as backup quarterback Shane Morris came onto the field to start Michigan’s drive.
After throwing an incomplete pass to Dennis Norfleet, Morris was then replaced by Gardner on the next play.
"What happened at the end, we wanted Devin to finish the game,” Hoke said. “I thought it was important. He wanted to finish the game, it was the last time he'll play at Michigan State. "
With four games to go and Michigan needing to now win three to earn bowl eligibility, Hoke wouldn’t confirm Gardner is his quarterback after the game.
"Let us think about it tonight,” Hoke said. “I think it's Devin's job right now."
Gardner finished his day 15-of-30 for 125-yards.