If most college football fans had been told prior to Saturday that Connecticut quarterback Chandler Whitmer would outperform Michigan‘s Devin Gardner, they would have chuckled. It’s exactly what happened though. The Wolverines were nearly upset by the Huskies yesterday and it’s showing signs that aren’t encouraging for the Michigan faithful.
Gardner finished the game 13-of-25 for 111 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble but was bailed out by the Michigan defense and running game. Gardner did add 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but he should be thanking Fitzgerald Toussaint and his defense that the Wolverines aren’t 3-1 today.
The Wolverines ran for 173 yards, 120 of which belonged to Toussaint. The Michigan defense held UConn to 21 points, 206 total yards and just one third down conversion. Some credit to slowing down Gardner should go to the Huskies’ defense. The four turnovers and limiting the Wolverines to just 284 yards of offense put the UConn offense in position to win the game. If the Wolverines were facing a team of any higher caliber than the Huskies, they would be 3-1 today.
What should concern Michigan fans is that soon better opponents are on the Wolverines’ docket. If yesterday’s performance was outside of the norm for Gardner and Michigan, the performance could be dismissed as a bad day. This is the second straight week in which turnovers have become a concern, though.
Last week Gardner threw three interceptions which almost allowed the Wolverines to get upset at home by Akron. Once again, it was the Michigan defense coming up with turnovers of their own that allowed the Wolverines to escape.
The reality for Michigan is that the way this team has been winning is not sustainable. The Wolverines can’t continue to lose the turnover battle and still win in the Big Ten. That five week stretch mentioned earlier is at Michigan State, Nebraska, at No. 17 Northwestern, at Iowa and No. 4 Ohio State. Counting on getting enough turnovers to overcome their own mistakes will maybe win two of those games.
The Wolverines have a bye-week before they open conference play at home against Minnesota on October 5. During the next two weeks head coach Brady Hoke should be stressing ball security and that throwing the ball out of bounds to punt is the lesser of two evils in comparison to throwing an interception.
The hope for Michigan faithful is that the team can play good enough defense and run the ball well enough to win while Gardner hopefully figures it out along the way. Michigan is running out of time for that. The rest of the Big Ten is coming.
Read more here