Notre Dame vs. Michigan: QB Devin Gardner Proves Himself on National Stage

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor ISeptember 8, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 07: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines gets loose for a long second quarter run while playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Devin Gardner has had impressive games in the past, but the doubters were still there heading into Saturday night's game against rival Notre Dame. After leading Michigan to an impressive 41-30 victory over the Fighting Irish, consider the doubters proven wrong. 

Not only did Gardner lead his team to 41 points against a defense most considered to be one of the best in the country, but he did it in emphatic style and all while sporting his new No. 98 "Legends" jersey in honor of Tom Harmon to boot.

No doubt, a man like Harmon would have been proud of the game Gardner put forth in "Under the Lights II."

Gardner finished the game 21-of-33 for 294 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception. 

Just like the namesake for his new number, Gardner didn't just do it through the air either, as he led the Wolverines in rushing with 82 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well. 

The 82-yard total on the ground was a career best for him, and while the 294 yards wasn't a career best, it was his second-best, just 20 yards off his career high through the air (314 vs. Iowa in 2012). 

Gardner's five total touchdowns were also his highest since the Iowa game last year as well. 

About the only thing he didn't do well was his decision to throw out of desperation from the back of his own end zone, allowing Stephon Tuitt an easy pick-six.

(h/t to ESPN for the video)

It's one thing to put up the kind of numbers Gardner did against the Hawkeyes in conference play, but it's an all together different thing to do so on the grandest stage against a hated rival like Notre Dame and in front of a record-setting crowd as well. 

Michigan did something no team did all of last year until the national championship game—score 40 points or more on the Notre Dame defense—and Gardner had the biggest of hands in that effort.

Of course, it also helps when you can show you have not only command of the offense, but also confidence in and chemistry with multiple receivers. Gardner made a star out of Jeremy Gallon on Saturday night, hitting him eight times for 184 yards and three touchdowns. 

The perception of Gallon was that of a nice slot option, but not a No. 1 wide receiver. It took all of one half of results for that notion to be reconsidered by some.

Gallon wasn't the only target to impress either, as tight end Devin Funchess was targeted often, catching three balls to tie receiver Drew Dileo for second-most on the team on Saturday night. 

That type of performance will make people stand up and take notice of Gardner as more than just a name with promise. It also shows that Michigan, as a pro-style offense, is just as dangerous as it ever was with Denard Robinson with the ball in his hands.

After Saturday night, Gardner will have to be taken seriously as a quarterback and a leader of the Michigan football team.