ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In front of an announced crowd of 111,079 on Saturday, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had an opportunity to showcase what an error-free offense looks like.
And he did just that in Michigan’s 43-13 win against Minnesota.
The Detroit native, who has thrown eight interceptions and been sacked five times in five games this season, played nearly a flawless game.
Gardner finished 13 of 17 for 235 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also had seven rushes for 17 yards and a score.
However, his first passing attempt didn’t come until midway through the second quarter.
Michigan called six consecutive running plays on its opening drive, a series tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint capped with an 8-yard touchdown run.
With only two other possessions in the first half, the Wolverines’ passing game didn’t look in sync until 2:35 left. Sophomore Devin Funchess reeled in an 18-yard pass from Gardner to set Michigan up on Minnesota’s 20-yard line. Three plays later, Gardner went back to Funchess on a 24-yard strike for a TD.
When asked about only attempting nine passes in the first half, Gardner shrugged it off and explained how the Michigan rushers took advantage of the extra running play calls.
“We were going to do what was working, and that was what was working at the time, so if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Gardner after the game. “Whenever I’m called on to throw the ball, that’s what I’m going to do, and that’s what I did today.”
Toussaint finished the half with seven rushes for 30 yards, and he finished the game with a team-high 79 rushing yards and two scores.
Fast forward to the end of the game, and Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges continued to call plays that gave Gardner a high-percentage chance of making a completion.
For Funchess, it was his coming out party. He finished with seven receptions and a career-high 151 yards receiving.
Gardner said having Funchess’ offensive output was crucial in opening up plays for other playmakers.
“It’s going to help a lot, (like) Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo,
he said. “It’s going to help our running game. … It’s going to help our team overall as a balanced and effective offense.”
Michigan (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) visits Penn State at 5 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium in University Park. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Briefly: Sophomore defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins left the game with a left leg injury in the second half.