Minnesota vs. Michigan: Wolverines Take Baby Steps with QB Devin Gardner

Phil CallihanContributor IOctober 5, 2013

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 05: Devin Gardner #98 of the Michigan Wolverines drops back to pass during the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium on October 5, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Behind a shuffled offensive line, quarterback Devin Gardner led the Wolverines to a 42-13 victory over Minnesota.

Coming off two underwhelming victories against Akron and UConn, Michigan scored 28 second-half points to deliver a dominant homecoming victory to retain the Little Brown Jug.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner didn’t throw a pass until the second quarter in a game plan that tested the newly shuffled offensive line.

The Wolverines first drive relied exclusively on Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green carrying the ball, with Toussaint scrambling for an 8-yard touchdown run to cap a 35-yard drive that began with a Minnesota fumble.

FItzgerald Toussaint
FItzgerald ToussaintRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Gardner had better protection than in past games, with new center Graham Glasgow replacing former starter Jack Miller while Chris Bryant entered the lineup at guard.

Gardner credited his lineman, saying, “They had a chip on their shoulder, they weren’t going to let me get hit.” 

The game plan helped Gardner regain confidence after struggling to find consistency over the last two weeks.

#87 Devin Funchess
#87 Devin FunchessRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan offense pounded the ground with Toussaint (17 carries for 78 yards, two touchdowns) and Green (10 carries for 23 yards, one touchdown) while Gardner targeted tight end Devin Funchess (7 receptions for 151 yards, one touchdown) with mid-range passes, which he then extended after the catch. Funchess found success by moving out to wide receiver in some formations to create mismatches against Minnesota defenders.

Head coach Brady Hoke discussed the Wolverine running attack, saying, “We wanted to run the ball, we wanted to send the message...that the threat was there.”

By establishing the running game and moving Funchess out to wide receiver, Michigan has taken the first step toward creating an offensive identity that they can rely on in their quest for the Big Ten Championship.

Phil Callihan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand at the post game press conference.