What a difference two weeks can make for the Michigan Wolverines. The further away head coach Brady Hoke and his Wolverines can get from the Shane Morris incident, the better the program will be.
Saturday’s performance showed there is no quit in these Wolverines despite a 2-4 start to the season and all the rumors of change within the program. The team, particularly quarterback Devin Gardner, rose to the occasion and secured a 18-13 victory Saturday against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Hoke and the program desperately needed a victory after three straight losses. The team’s ability to handle Penn State, which entered the game 4-1 overall, is Michigan’s first step to remaining competitive in the Big Ten Conference.
Gardner personified the program’s resiliency with his effort Saturday night.
The senior quarterback suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter, which could have prevented him from returning to the game. In fact, third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy entered the game for two unsuccessful series before Gardner decided to gut it out and finish the contest.
Other than an ill-advised screen pass that was intercepted, Gardner did everything necessary to will the Wolverines to the victory. The upperclassman became a vocal leader on the sidelines throughout the contest and kept his team in the game at all times, whether the offense was on the field or not.
Gardner finished the game 16-of-24 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback was also the team’s second-leading rusher with 18 yards despite being hobbled.
On defense, the Wolverines remained aggressive throughout the contest. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was uncomfortable all night long due to the pressure brought by Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Hackenberg — one of the nation’s most talented young quarterbacks — was never able to get into a rhythm, and Penn State’s offense continued to stall due to how heavily the offense relies on the sophomore signal-caller.
Michigan’s defense also held Penn State to only 54 yards rushing. Mattison’s aggressive approach allowed the Wolverines to consistently win at the line of scrimmage and, at times, proved to be completely overwhelming.
With the victory, Hoke’s hot seat will cool slightly for at least one week. The coach envisions a 3-4 Michigan squad that can still compete for a Big Ten championship. Michigan’s biggest test of the season will come next weekend, and it’s a perfect opportunity to prove itself. The Wolverines travel to East Lansing to face the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans. No game will be a truer indicator of where Michigan stands under Hoke’s supervision.