Devin Gardner

Pregame Six Pack: Waving goodbye to the Wolverines

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With an online vigil of Irish fans still holding out hope for the university to decide the fate of DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams, the crazy week leading up to the final scheduled meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan continues to take its share of twists and turns.

With fans clinging to every 140 characters Tweeted, and every emoticon blasted, the university process is still a mystery to all that are curious: Players, families, fans, and benefactors alike.

With some late-night tweets from DaVaris Daniels sparking hope, Brian Kelly has moved forward, all while keeping the door open for the marooned five.

“If I got them back tomorrow, they’d play on Saturday,” Kelly said Thursday after practice. “I can get them ready. They’re physically conditioned… If we were hypothetically to get that call, they’d been running out of that tunnel on Saturday.”

That call hasn’t come. Or at least not yet. And after talking to more than a few people in and around the program, it’s not expected, either. So with a primetime broadcast on NBC set to begin at 7:30 ET, the Irish will move on and do battle with the players they have, a modest favorite in a game that’s rarely gone according to plan.

With Michigan head coach Brady Hoke playing coy about his shaky offensive line rotation and the health of some key contributors, it’s clear that just from the level of interest, there are early season football games, and then there is Notre Dame vs. Michigan.

With a primetime kickoff and plotlines befitting an Emmy-winning drama, let’s get to the pregame six pack. As usual, here are six tidbits, fun facts, leftovers or miscellaneous musings to get you ready for one last battle between college football’s two winningest programs.

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When the guy with his name on the building doesn’t know what’s going on, it’s pretty clear that the university process is remarkably buttoned up. 

When tech mogul Tom Mendoza, whose name graces the No. 1 undergraduate business school in the country, doesn’t know any more about the academic proceedings than the thousands of other Irish fans burning up messageboards and chat rooms for even third-hand rumors of good news, it’s a pretty good sign that the process is going to play out in the manner that the university administration sees fit.

So while that’s incredibly frustrating for those who can’t think of anything more important going on this week under the Golden Dome than the football game in Notre Dame Stadium, it speaks to an academic process that’s been in place for a long time, and a system that Kelly seems comfortable with.

“I had put it behind me really, whether it was two weeks, three weeks or a month,” Kelly said. “I have not had expectations really one way or the other.

“I have dealt with this situation, when I first heard of it, with maybe blinders on. In that I’ve focused on the guys that I have. I miss the guys, I care about them, but I really have a responsibility to the guys on my team.”

That’s as good of a look into the coach’s psyche. And also a sign that maybe the Irish head coach understands this university far better than many give him credit for.

So while many fret about some alleged injustice being put on the in-limbo players, it’s also a reminder that the blame for this delay isn’t on any academic bureaucracy, but rather the five students who put themselves in the situation to begin with.

 

With three new coordinators, both coaching staffs are grinding the film room a little bit harder. 

We talked with former quarterback Tommy Rees about the preparation that goes into getting ready to play Greg Mattison. But Mattison is the only holdover of the coordinators involved in this game, forcing both Michigan and Notre Dame’s staff to dig for clues with Doug Nussmeier, Mike Denbrock and Brian VanGorder now in charge of their respective units.

When asked about what to expect on Saturday night, Brady Hoke made it clear that things on the defensive side of the ball are going to be quite different for Notre Dame.

“I don’t know if there’s a whole lot, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that you would think will be the same,” Hoke said. “Offensively, Brian’s going to run his offense. I guess we’ve got the other new coordinator, so he’ll do his thing.”

Hoke talked about the challenges that come with trying to gain insight on VanGorder’s schemes, especially with only a spring game and the season opener as clues.

“You look at (the Rice game), Coach VanGorder’s different stops at different places,” Hoke said. “Believe me, we’ve broken just about everything down that you can break down. I’m sure they’ve watched out spring. We’ve watched their spring. So, are there things that I’m sure they haven’t shown yet? No question about it.”

Kelly echoed those thoughts on Thursday evening, when talking about preparing for Doug Nussmeier.

“We’re watching a lot of Alabama film,” Kelly said. “But they’ve got a lot to defend with us as well and with Brian. So they’re watching some NFL film. It works both ways.”

 

As Friday’s announced Ohio State game showed, don’t expect the Irish to waste much time worrying about the loss of Michigan from their schedule. 

Notre Dame’s well-timed announcement that they’ve added Ohio State to the schedule in 2022 and 2023 didn’t go unnoticed. In addition to filling Irish fans with glee, it caught the attention of Wolverines fans as well. And maybe even the ghost of former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

“Let me tell you, Bo would really be ticked off,” former Michigan running back Harlan Huckleby told the Detroit News. “He would be like, ‘Let’s put a foot up their butts and twist it.’ He’d be like, ‘We need to put a good (expletive)-whipping on them and take that to your new rivalry. Let’s give them a good-old fashion Michigan butt-whipping in their home and in their backyard.’ That is what people are always going to remember.”

Of course, Bo wasn’t around to see the way Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon took the news when Irish AD Jack Swarbrick delivered Brandon the letter officially stopping the automatic rollover renewal of their series while the Irish figured out their ACC commitments. Brandon’s “interpretation” of how this all went down hasn’t sat very well with anyone inside the athletic department.

With rumors of expanded conference play in the Big Ten creating whispers that maybe nobody from Jim Delany’s conference would be able to fit the Irish into their schedule, the fact that Urban Meyer and Ohio State AD Gene Smith added a home-and-home with Notre Dame had to feel good for Swarbrick. It might even explain why Notre Dame played a little flexible with their usual rule of not acknowledging scheduling moves until a full season is completed.

 

With another big game under the lights, Notre Dame is all in on this recruiting weekend. 

For as important as the game on the field is, the Irish staff will have one of their biggest recruiting weekends of the year taking place. Seven official visits are set for this weekend, with commitments Jalen Guyton, Tristen Hoge, Prentice McKinney and CJ Sanders joined by these elite targets: middle linebacker Tevon Coney, defensive end Porter Gustin and running back Soso Jamabo. All three recruits are significant needs on Notre Dame’s board.

There’ll be plenty more unofficial visitors with commits Miles Boykin, Nick Coleman, Micah Dew-Treadway, Nicco Fertitta, Elijah Taylor, Brandon Tiassum, Jerry Tillery, Trevor Ruhland and Justin Yoon in town to mingle with current players and recruits.

The Irish staff won’t just be entertaining recruits from this cycle, a large group of 2016 and 2017 targets will also be making unofficial visits. At the top of that list is quarterback Malik Henry, one of Notre Dame’s priority targets and a recruit trending towards the Irish of late.

Other elite underclassmen include Top 100-type players like Wisconsin lineman Ben Bredeson, Illinois defensive end Josh King, tackle Tommy Kraemer, tight end Jake Hausmann, wide receiver Austin Mack and quarterback Shea Patterson. All told over 30 prospects from the ’16 and ’17 classes will be taking in the big game, putting a big priority on making sure Saturday night is a good show.

 

It might be over simplifying things, but shut down Devin Gardner and Notre Dame should win the game. 

For Notre Dame to beat Michigan, they’ll need to reverse some mind-boggling trends that have taken over the series versus the Wolverines. First, they’ll need to hold onto the football. It’s not a surprise that the Irish are 1-3 under Brian Kelly when you consider they’ve turned the ball over 12 times in that span, throwing nine interceptions and losing three fumbles.

But taking care of their own business is a given. Figuring out how to slow down Devin Gardner is the key to the Irish defensive attack.

Gardner’s played impressive football of late, throwing 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions in his last nine games. That doesn’t include his impressive performance last season against the Irish, where he threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns, all while leading Michigan in rushing.

But a look at his 2013 splits shows a significant statistical difference when Gardner plays on the road. Gardner completed 66.8 percent of his passes at home. That number dropped to just 51.7 on the road. Gardner threw for 2,089 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions at home. He threw for just 871 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions on the road.

In an environment that should be as rowdy as Notre Dame Stadium comes, it’ll be up to Gardner to find a way to play composed football. He’s done it against Notre Dame, but not necessarily on the road, where the Wolverines finished 2-4 last season.

 

Don’t look now, but Brian Kelly’s home field advantage is starting to take shape. 

You may not have noticed, but the Irish have been playing some very good football inside Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have won 14 of their last 15 home games, falling only to Oklahoma over the past two seasons. And with the FieldTurf installation dramatically improving team speed, the Irish have already seemingly practiced more inside their home stadium in the past few weeks than they did in past seasons.

That’s put Kelly and his team into a sound headspace heading into a game that doesn’t necessarily bring back the best of memories (more so for Irish fans than players). After imploring his team to play fast, physical and with great energy last week, Kelly raised the stakes, hoping his team adds great mental focus to their agenda Saturday night.

“We’re going to have to blend both the mental and the physical on Saturday against Michigan,” Kelly said. “For us to beat Michigan, we’ve gotta be on our assignments and makes sure we’re doing the little things the right way.”

That means trusting an even younger roster with a group of players who aren’t expected to still be held from competition. (Note: Notre Dame’s never called the suspended. Sure it’s semantics, but it’s worth noting.) But Kelly believes that the way his young team is developing, they’ll be ready to play their best football when the lights go on and kickoff at 7:42 p.m. rolls around.

“There’s a good deal of guys on this team that have played in big games. At home, I think gives me confidence,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve won 14 out of 15 games at home. I think there’s a confidence factor. We’ve got some offensive weapons that can make plays. Then defensively, we showed that we can do some things effectively against the run. In big games like this, you’ve got to be able to hold your own against the run and you’ve got to put some points on the board.”

The last time Michigan came to Notre Dame Stadium, it took defensive heroics from Manti Te’o and company to turn a chilly September evening into Denard Robinson’s nightmare. The Irish formula will certainly be different on Saturday, with Golson asked to carry the weight. If you look closely at Kelly, you get the feeling that he feels both his team and his quarterback are ready.

 

Five things we learned: Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It turns out Notre Dame’s quarterback nightmares didn’t end when Denard Robinson graduated. With the shoelace-less wonder gone to the NFL, redshirt junior Devin Gardner took his turn terrorizing the Irish, with the quarterback putting on a performance for the ages in Michigan’s 41-30 victory.

Gardner passed for 294 yards and four touchdowns while running for 82 yards and another touchdown as the Wolverines offense was just too much for Notre Dame’s defense to handle. Teaming with Jeremy Gallon, who caught eight passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, the Michigan offense hit the Irish for multiple big plays, doing to Bob Diaco’s unit what nobody but Nick Saban’s Alabama team could last year.

In the last match-up between the two teams in Michigan Stadium for the foreseeable future, Gardner sent the home crowd home happy while dropping the Irish to 1-1, their first regular season loss since losing to Stanford to close the 2011 regular season.

Let’s take a look at what we learned.

1. Even with the kitchen sink thrown at him, Devin Gardner made Notre Dame’s defense pay.

It’s not often a man wearing No. 98 is the most athletic and elusive player on the football field. But Gardner’s homage to Heisman winner Tom Harmon had the redshirt junior quarterback looking like another Michigan legend in training.

Early and often Gardner made the Irish pay, regardless of the tactics Bob Diaco threw his way. Gardner opened the game throwing with precision, putting together scoring drives on the team’s first two possessions.

“Devin Gardner played outstanding,” Kelly said after the game, an assertion that really didn’t require much explanation.

While the talk in Ann Arbor has long been about getting back to the pro-style offense that the Wolverines utilized with statuesque, strong-armed quarterbacks, the reality is that Al Borges’ offense is more difficult to defend with a dual-threat player like Gardner than any offense piloted by a traditional dropback passer that Michigan used to collect like baseball cards.

Gardner made the Irish pay in a variety of ways on Saturday night, keeping the ball on the zone read, buying time and making plays outside of the pocket, throwing deep over the top or in the precision-based short passing game. With a flair for the dramatic and the same riverboat gambling genes that Robinson possessed, Gardner almost brought the Irish back into the game in the fourth quarter, but nevertheless was the difference maker on Saturday night.

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2. This isn’t last year’s Notre Dame defense.

Sure, eight starters return from a unit that was among the best in college football last season. But this sure isn’t the group that finished second in scoring defense last year. While it’s hard to quantify what Manti Te’o brought to the heart of the Irish defense last season, it’s clear that this unit is still trying to figure out what it is, and Michigan’s 460 yards confirmed that there are deficiencies in a group that was expected to be among the nation’s elite.

A season after a very green secondary still managed to finish in the top 25 against the pass, Notre Dame was beat early and often by Michigan through the air, with KeiVarae Russell looking like he was being picked on by Jeremy Gallon, who had a career day catching eight balls for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett Jackson also gave up some throws when playing man-to-man, and too often the Irish were burnt when their secondary were forced to win an individual battle during an Irish blitz.

The Irish defense managed to make eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, with Ishaq Williams notching the team’s lone sack. But even with Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix chasing after Gardner for most of the night, there were too many breakdowns, with the Wolverines putting together five plays of 15 yards or more, including two critical pick-ups in the fourth quarter after the Irish pulled within four points.

Add in three critical pass interference calls that extended Michigan drives and led to touchdowns, and there’s a lot of work to be done in the defensive meeting room.

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3. While the defense gave up 41, the Irish offense couldn’t do its part to win this game.

When recapping the loss, you might have expected Brian Kelly to discuss his defense’s inability to stop the Wolverines offense. But interestingly enough, Kelly talked about the failures of the offense when trying to decipher how the Irish came up short.

“I felt that we missed some opportunities offensively that could’ve given us the opportunity to win this football game,” Kelly said. “I felt like we had two opportunities to score. We’ve gotta make those plays. This was one of those games that our offense needed to carry the day for us and we just came up short on a couple of key plays for us.”

A season after the Irish slugged out a 13-6 victory, Kelly talked about the need for his offense to keep pace with Michigan’s tonight.

“We knew that Gardner was a very difficult quarterback to defend,” Kelly said. “We also knew that offensively that we were in a position where we needed to score more points. I didn’t think this was going to be like last year.”

If you’re looking for where things went wrong for the Irish, look no further than the difference in the teams’ red zone performances. Michigan went four-for-four inside the Irish twenty, cashing in all four drives for touchdowns. Notre Dame only converted two of their five appearances for seven points, getting nothing twice when they were in scoring position.

Forced to throw much of the second half trailing by 14 points, Tommy Rees threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns. But Rees also threw two interceptions in his 51 passing attempts, one at the end of the first half and the second on a deflected ball that sealed the game late. On a night when the offense needed to play with efficiency to hang in and win, they were unable to do it.

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4. The Big House continues to be a house of horrors for the Irish. 

As 115,109 fans excited the stadium, the Michigan PA blared the Chicken Dance, a less than subtle dig at a Notre Dame team that Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said was “chickening” out of the spirited rivalry.

It was a glorious conclusion for Michigan fans, who celebrated another huge victory over the Irish under the lights, a showcase evening for a football program that’s still undefeated under Hoke playing at home.

Last season, Brian Kelly looked like a changed man from the one we had seen in ’11, a fiery sideline yeller that created headlines with the different hues his face turned during turnover plagued football games. That head coach returned for a bit this evening, a familiar look for the coach when playing Michigan, a program he has lost three of four to in his four seasons in South Bend.

The night looked as if it were going to take a turn for the better for Kelly, when Stephon Tuitt made a diving catch in the Michigan end zone capping one of Devin Gardner’s more inexplicable plays. But after kicking a field goal to pull within four points, the Wolverines were able to march down and score a game-icing touchdown, getting a major break when a Bennett Jackson interception was taken off the board by a suspect pass interference penalty.

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5. With plenty still to play for, it’s back to the basics for Notre Dame. 

The message was clear after the football game. Regardless of missed calls or tough breaks, the focus was internal for the Irish, and Brian Kelly will spend the next week getting back to the basic fundamentals that turned Notre Dame into an unlikely twelve-game winner last season.

“We have to play smarter and more disciplined,” Kelly said after the game. “I told our football team, losing is losing. But we’re going to go back to work on Tuesday with the emphasis in practice on a more disciplined approach to everything. We have to tighten up everything. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And they understand what I mean.”

There will be time for breaking down tape and analyzing what exactly went wrong. But Kelly sees this loss as an opportunity to refocus a team that didn’t play particularly sharp against Temple and made plenty of mental mistakes in a game where execution was at a premium.

Nobody expected another undefeated regular season. But with a calendar that features a handful of Saturdays where the Irish will have to play their best football to win, refocusing a group that had everything go right last fall is the team’s biggest challenge.

And in that corner…The Michigan Wolverines

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Whatever we’re calling the Michigan-Notre Dame game, it’s immensely important. Not just for the fans, but for the trajectory of each team’s season. For the Irish, Saturday night’s battle in the Big House kicks off a tough five game stretch that has the Irish facing three straight Big Ten teams to go along with Oklahoma and Arizona State. For Michigan, it’s an early season victory that likely vaults them into the top ten, and is a springboard (along with assumed wins over Akron and UConn) into Big Ten action.

Gathering much from Michigan’s 50-point trouncing of Central Michigan is difficult. The bullet points are certainly there: Devin Gardner, some receiving weapons, and young and aggressive defense.

But to help us dig a little deeper is the Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis. Covering the Wolverines beat since 1992, she’s seen quite a bit of the boys in maize and blue, and was kind enough to answer a few questions to get us up to speed on the big game.

I asked, she answered:

Winning by 50 points is an impressive way to open the season. Did the dominant victory over Central Michigan answer any of your offseason questions?

Only this question — would Michigan really play a lot of young players, including true freshmen? — and Brady Hoke did that, and I think in the end, that will be a big plus for this team. I think the interior of the offensive line is still a question mark and that depth chart, as offensive coordinator Al Borges said this week, is written in pencil. It was good to see Fitz Toussaint running the ball after his offseason of rehab from a broken left leg. It was also good to get an early look at freshman back Derrick Green, who has quickly climbed the depth chart from fifth to second (in part because of the season-ending injury to Drake Johnson), and as expected, freshman quarterback Shane Morris got in the game and got his feet wet.

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For better or worse, this offense is in Devin Gardner’s hands. Watching last weekend’s game, he put together quite a highlight reel, but also threw two interceptions, including one inside his own 10 yard line. After having their struggles with Denard Robinson (until last year), what type of quarterback are the Irish facing in Gardner? 

While Gardner doesn’t have the electricity of Denard (or the untied shoelaces), he has great athleticism, and I like what he did when he scrambled. The ONLY positive to take from the picks is that he didn’t drown in those — he rebounded quickly and recovered well. Clearly, as we’ve seen these last few Michigan-Notre Dame games, avoiding turnovers is absolutely key. I do not expect to see Gardner, who, by the way, is a better passer than Denard, making a habit of such bad throws like the two against CMU that resulted in picks.

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After a few good recruiting classes, there is some talented youth in Greg Mattison’s front seven. How will that group do against Notre Dame’s offensive line without Jake Ryan?

Michigan played a LOT of defensive linemen and rotated a lot at those spots — Quinton Washington this week said he was more refreshed than he’s ever been during and after a game because the rotation worked and kept everyone fresh. The linebackers were solid in the opener. Desmond Morgan played well, as did Cam Gordon and Brennen Beyer, the key guys replacing Ryan, and James Ross and Joe Bolden also got high marks.

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Another big match-up is the battle up front between the Wolverine’s offensive line and the Irish’s tough front seven. How does the rebuilt interior of Michigan’s line look?

Well, it looks like it’s still a work in progress. Graham Glasgow, who started at left guard, and Jack Miller, who started at center, are still engaged in competition at center. While I wouldn’t expect any great lineup changes, Borges suggested that could be a possibility, that jobs are up in the air. Across the board, though, the staff seemed to like the performance of redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis. Again, while they got valuable game experience in the opener against CMU, Notre Dame presents a much more complete package that more than likely will give the Michigan offensive line some fits.

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Brian Kelly ruffled a few feathers when he said he didn’t consider Michigan to be one of Notre Dame’s historic rivals. Does anybody believe that? How do you characterize this rivalry from Michigan’s perspective? Considering the drama of the last few games, the rancor of the scheduling break, and the general disdain between the two schools’ fans, how big of a rivalry is this for Michigan?

I don’t think most people from either camp really believe that, but it has made for some fun conversations this week! I’ve always looked at it this way — Michigan State and Ohio State are Michigan’s most important rivalry games because they are vital in the Big Ten championship race. But Michigan considers Notre Dame its important non-conference rival. Because they are so similar in how their fan bases and programs value their traditions, and because they often recruit the same players and because they are the winningest programs, it carries that historic value. Michigan looks at the Notre Dame game as a battle against what often is a mirror image, and that games gives the Wolverines a better sense of who they are as a team and where they need to improve.

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I believe you are on the record picking the Wolverines in this one already. What kind of game do you think we are in for on Saturday night?

I am taking Michigan, in part because of the cliche-but-true — homefield advantage. Not that that helped Michigan two years ago under the lights against Notre Dame those first three quarters, but in that fourth-quarter flourish, the players definitely fed off the crowd. I think we’ll see a few critical turnovers, because, well, we usually do. I think we’ll see an aggressive Michigan defense doing its best to rattle Tommy Rees, get him to hang onto the ball and overthink situations. There’s no doubt Devin Gardner is aware of how huge this stage will be, and he likes that stage. I think he will be steady and play well and will find tight end Devin Funchess on some critical throws. But overall, I think it’s the Michigan defense that will dictate this one.

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A special thanks to Angelique for fitting this into her schedule this week. For more good stuff from her and the Detroit News, check out her Michigan coverage here, or follow her @Chengelis.

Objectives cut and dry for both teams

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Football is a game of numbers. And it’s not hard to look at a few of them and understand the difference between winning and losing.

When you check the stat sheet from last year’s 13-6 game, the Irish held Michigan’s offense to just 299 yards while forcing a whopping six turnovers in a hard-earned victory. Compare that to the game in ’11, when Michigan racked up 452 yards, while going +2 in the turnover differential in their furious comeback win. Turnovers and defense. Hold onto the football and limit yards. Just about any guy with a gas grill and a cable TV package can figure that one out.

That said, the key to the Irish’s defensive plan makes simple math look mighty complicated. Especially when facing a quarterback like the ones Michigan has had behind center the past few years. Gone is Denard Robinson, a quarterback Brian Kelly called the most dynamic and electric playmaker he’s ever seen at the position. But in his place is Devin Gardner, another dual threat player that also happens to throw the football with grace and accuracy.

Kelly talked about defending a guy like Gardner, who he compared to Randall Cunningham, and how it’ll be different than facing someone like Robinson.

“Gardner throws the ball with much more accuracy,” Kelly said. “He pushes the ball down the field very easily.  And he certainly scrambles very well, keeps his eyes downfield and is not afraid to run. Another dual‑threat quarterback that is going to be very, very difficult to defend.”

As the Irish prepare to face yet another Wolverine quarterback that keeps defensive coordinators up at night, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges talked about the challenges that he faces in the Irish defense, a group that shut down his offense last season.

“They’re as good as anybody we’ll play I think, across the board,” Borges said. “A stout nose guard, two athletic defensive ends. They don’t have Te’o any more at linebacker, but they’re still pretty active kids. Solid cover guys on the back end.

“They know their system pretty well because they’ve been playing it for a while. They’ll be formidable. That’s a good defensive football team.”

Borges brings up what life is like for Notre Dame after Te’o. Kelly also talked about Michigan’s offense post-Robinson. That leaves a little bit of guessing for both teams, as tendencies and structure tends to change.

“We’ll have a little bit of a different plan,” Kelly said. “There’ll obviously be some similarities, but they’re different players.”

Borges conceded the same, though reserved the right to go back and use some things that have been successful.

“We’re different, but there’s still a little carry over here and there that you can steal from a year ago,” Borges said.

That carryover exists in the ability to scramble. Michigan coaches likely watched Temple quarterback Connor Reilly scrambling last Saturday and began licking their chops. That’s where Gardner is at his best — dangerous with his legs but deadly with his arm — and put together a few highlight reel plays against Central Michigan, extending plays until a receiver broke open. It’s something Borges and the Wolverines offense has worked hard at perfecting.

“You have to have some structure within your improv. What we practice, and talk about a lot, is how we are going to adjust when the pocket is broken,” Borges said.

Last year, that rarely happened. The Irish were able to pin Robinson in the pocket, using an overpowering front seven to keep Michigan’s quarterback hemmed in and hassled, forcing bad decisions by Robinson, which turned into four interceptions.

While Gardner sparkled over the weekend, he still threw two interceptions — one a very bad decision deep in his own territory and the other when he was under duress.

“I know one thing about Devin. If he uses good judgment, he’s a problem for the defense,” Borges said. “There’s some stuff you just don’t draw up on that board to account for. You’ve got to cover him and cover the receivers. And that’s not easy to do.”

Limit yardage and force turnovers. Play mistake free and get outside the pocket. Only one of these two objectives will be reached. And that team will likely be celebrating a hard fought victory Saturday night.