Notre Dame vs. Michigan: Devin Gardner Must Improve to Lead Big Blue to Victory

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIISeptember 6, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - AUGUST 31: Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines runs for a first quarter touchdown past Louis Palmer #56 of the Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines lost last year's meeting with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish because of poor quarterback play. Denard Robinson was picked off four times in that game and the Wolverines lost an ugly affair, 13-6.

If Devin Gardner doesn't improve upon his play from Week 1, we could see a repeat in 2013.

Lost in the glory of the Wolverines' 59-9 thrashing of the Central Michigan Chippewas was the fact that Gardner looked less than stellar against a mediocre defense. Gardner made plays with his legs scoring two touchdowns on the ground, but he also threw two interceptions.

Neither pass was tipped, and the first one came on a short, telegraphed throw inside the Wolverines' 20-yard line. On the second pick, Gardner's arm strength was on display, but not his accuracy. He drastically overshot Jeremy Gallon and the pass was picked off by the Chippewas' Jason Wilson.

Here's a look at every throw and run from Gardner's performance against Central Michigan from Justis Mosqueda on YouTube.

This was just the first game of the season, but it can't be ignored that the Chippewas had the 74th-ranked pass defense in the nation in 2012. The secondary lost three seniors and the defensive line lost its leading pass rusher Caesar Rodriguez to graduation.

In short, this is not expected to be one of the top pass defenses in the country this year.

There is no doubt the Fighting Irish defense will offer an even stiffer test for Gardner and the Wolverines offense. Against the Chippewas, the Wolverines leaned heavily on the running game and Gardner got great pass protection. He had plenty of time to throw on most downs and few Wolverines ball-carriers had difficulty finding running lanes.

Things won't be as easy against Notre Dame. Michigan will need Gardner to make plays with his arm and legs. The talent is there for him to be a dual threat, but he'll have to be more accurate against more pressure.

If he can step up, the Wolverines will exact revenge for last year's defeat. If not, Michigan will be 1-1.


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