East Lansing — It was another difficult, multiple-turnover outing for Michigan fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner, whose career as a starter will end without a win over rival Michigan State.
Gardner had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and an interception and fumble both deep in Michigan State territory in Michigan's 35-11 loss on Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. He is 0-2 as the starting quarterback against MSU, and the Spartans have won six of the last seven against the Wolverines.
Michigan is 3-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten and has four regular-season games remaining. The Wolverines must reach six victories to become bowl-eligible.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke was asked after the game about Gardner's status as the starter.
"Why don't you let us think about it tonight?" Hoke said. "I think it's Devin's job right now, I'll tell you."
Gardner, who suffered a high left ankle sprain two weeks earlier in the Penn State game, did not endure the physical beating he took a year ago in the loss at MSU. He was sacked seven times last season and took two sacks Saturday.
He was 13-of-28 for 121 yards and did not have a touchdown pass.
In the first quarter, Michigan got the ball at the MSU 29-yard line after a personal foul on the punt return. Gardner fumbled on the first play that drive. Michigan State did not capitalize, however, missing on a field goal off that turnover.
Gardner was intercepted in the third quarter by R.J. Williamson who returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to give Michigan State a 21-3 lead. And on Michigan's first drive of the fourth quarter, Gardner had moved the Wolverines to the MSU 22-yard line when he made a befuddling shovel pass intercepted by Taiwan Jones.
"He thought he had something there or he wouldn't have done it," Hoke said.
Gardner was not available after the game.
Hoke tried to explain Gardner's turnovers.
"He's constantly trying to make a play," Hoke said. "The pick-six was a pretty athletic play in some regards by the defender. Tried to maybe put it in there in a small window. Part of it is he's aggressive, he believes in himself, believes in making plays. Do you coach to try and not to? Yeah, every day."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke discusses the loss to MSU on Saturday in East Lansing.
With 5:24 left in the game, sophomore backup Shane Morris entered the game for one play. Gardner returned the next play.
"What happened at the end, Devin was going to finish the game," Hoke said. "As I thought of it, I thought it was important. He wanted to — he's from this state, last time he'll play Michigan State — to finish the game."
Gardner's 121 yards against Michigan represent his lowest output of the season.