Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he has "all the confidence in the world" in junior quarterback Devin Gardner despite Gardner's propensity for mistakes.
Michigan is 5-1 and is coming off its first loss of the season, a four-overtime setback at Penn State. Gardner threw two more interceptions and lost a fumble against the Nittany Lions. That gives him 10 interceptions this season, tied for third-most in the nation behind Washington State QB Connor Halliday's 12 and Souther Miss QB Allan Bridgford's 11.
"If I had no confidence in our quarterback, with the interceptions that we've had, he wouldn't be our quarterback," Hoke told reporters. "I have all the confidence in the world in Devin Gardner."
Gardner has 11 touchdown passes this season, but he also has thrown two interceptions returned for touchdowns and lost a fumble that was returned for a score. He has started 11 games in his career and has thrown 22 TD passes and 15 interceptions.
"He has improved every week," Hoke said of Gardner. "There is no short leash."
One reason there isn't a short leash is that there is no viable alternative. The backup is true freshman Shane Morris, who has played in two games, attempted six passes and tossed one interception.
Gardner leads the Wolverines in rushing with 439 yards and has had two 100-yard games this season, including Saturday's loss. He is an athletic quarterback who was recruited to run the spread offense favored by previous coach Rich Rodriguez. But Hoke dismissed the idea that Michigan might be better offensively if Gardner ran the ball more, citing the threat of injury.
That is Michigan's offense in a nutshell: The quarterback still is struggling to adapt to a pro-style attack, but his receiving corps is limited and there is no elite tailback on the roster to take pressure off the quarterback, who might be better-suited for a different style of offense that the Wolverines can't play because of a lack of depth at quarterback.
Despite the problems, Gardner is a playmaker, and Michigan has a shot at a 10-win season in large part because of his skills.