Devin Gardner has completed 71 of 118 passes (60.2 percent) for 1,036 yards this season. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor -- Part of Michiganís game plan last Saturday against Minnesota was to take pressure off quarterback Devin Gardner while not limiting his ability to make plays. Gardner did not turn the ball over after accounting for 10 of Michigan's 12 turnovers the first four games.
He only had seven carries and did not make high-risk throws against the Gophers.
U-M offensive coordinator Al Borges worked with former Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, who was in a similar situation as Gardner, facing public criticism, and borrowed from that relationship while restoring some of Gardner's confidence during the bye.
When Borges arrived at Auburn, fans wanted Campbell replaced. But Borges went another direction.
He told Campbell to play freely, go for plays, and he could help fix any mistakes the quarterback made. He simply didn't want Campbell to be scared.
Of course, he didn't want Gardner to play timidly, either.
"I don't think it was any earth-shattering coaching," Borges said. "All it was was making a kid believe that you still were convinced he was the answer when a lot of people might not have thought that. If the guy coaching you is the same way or starts scaring him, he will go out there and play so guarded you won't get anything out of him.
"There has to be a delicate balance between keeping him aggressive and using good judgment and making sure he understands what you want -- with not turning the ball over being at the top of the priority list."
Tough on the defense, too
Left tackle Taylor Lewan was so concerned about the noise he anticipates at Penn State's Beaver Stadium he sent coach Brady Hoke a text message late last Saturday and suggested practicing with loud music this week.
While communicating will be a concern for the offense, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the defense is not immune to the challenges of playing in such a loud stadium.
"That's a huge deal because one, (the Nittany Lions) go at a faster tempo," Mattison said. "Second, you have to get the signal from me, and everyone out there has to be on the same page. If you don't and one guy doesn't (get the signal), there's the big play. We have to do a great job of everybody communicating."