- Terra Molengraff/Daily
By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 24, 2013
When fans watched the Michigan football team scrape by Connecticut on Saturday, it was almost like a horrible sense of déjà vu. The Wolverines didn’t see it that way, though.
After beating the Huskies, Michigan sauntered off the field, patting each other on the back and smiling. The mood was jovial. You wouldn’t have been able to tell the Wolverines just survived another close call, another narrow win against a team they were supposed to have run circles around.
It was a far cry from the Akron game a week prior. After that disappointment, Michigan didn’t celebrate its win. It walked off the field in silence. Fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan cursed during his postgame interview, while redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner sat by his side in silence.
Fans may not have been able to tell the difference between the team that played the Zips and the one that faced the Huskies, but Michigan coach Brady Hoke certainly could.
“It was a much different team,” he said when asked if he saw an improvement in the Wolverines from Akron to UConn.
Lewan agrees. The captain used the word embarrassing five times to describe Michigan’s performance against Akron. Tuesday, though, he was more optimistic about the Wolverines’ future as they head into their first bye week on the eve of Big Ten play.
“I’m not going to apologize for being 4-0,” Lewan said. “I saw a huge sense of urgency in those young guys. They understand we want to be successful every single week. I think it really clicked for them in the second half of the game.”
But for as much as the program says it’s improved over the last week, there’s one main area of concern — the coaching staff is still looking for a way to reign in Gardner’s unpredictable play that manifested Saturday with his eighth interception of the season.
Last week, offensive coordinator Al Borges said Gardner wasn’t generally the type of player to make the same mistake twice. Hoke contradicted that statement on Tuesday, though, saying that Gardner now has to be “re-coached,” since he’s become such a wild card on the field.
The issue of Gardner as a Superman figure has also been addressed this season — does Gardner try and do everything himself because he simply doesn’t have enough trust in the rest of his teammates? Hoke says no.
“I think he’s been a Superman a long time,” Hoke said. “I think when you grow up being Superman, you have that in your mind, and he’s competitive. It’s in his DNA.”
Lewan has been Gardner’s staunchest supporter, putting much of the quarterback’s woes on his shoulders after the Akron game. As he reminded Gardner’s critics, there are still 10 other players on the field, and a missed assignment from any one of them can be responsible for Gardner’s unpredictability.
“We haven’t played a perfect game yet,” Lewan said. “Our job is to perform like a Michigan team every year. You look around, there are banners everywhere of successful Michigan teams. That’s what we need to live up to.”