Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 9/7/13
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had just made the biggest mistake of his football career, and he had done it in front of the biggest college-football crowd in 76 years. His only thought? "I couldn't let anyone see that I was upset," Gardner said after Saturday's 41-30 victory over Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium. With Michigan leading 34-20 in the fourth quarter, Gardner dropped back to pass inside his own 5-yard line. He was immediately put under pressure by Notre Dame's defensive line and tried to do the thing he does best -- escape. He drifted back into the end zone, attempting to elude defenders, but two Irish linemen hit him high and low. That would have been bad -- he should have stayed out of the end zone at all costs -- but not horrible. A safety would pull the Irish within 12 points and give them the ball, but they would still need two scores to surge ahead. The problem for Michigan was, Gardner wasn't done showing off his athletic ability. As he was being driven to the ground, he found the strength to fling the ball toward the sideline, trying to avoid giving up two points. He did, but not in the way he intended. Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Truitt made a diving catch of the flip, giving the Irish an instant touchdown and silencing the record crowd of 115,109. Suddenly, Notre Dame was within 34-27 with a lot of time to play, and a game that had looked comfortable moments earlier now looked like another Wolverines-Irish nailbiter. "I made a huge mistake, and I knew that everyone in the stadium was going to be looking at me," Gardner said. "Everyone was going to need me to give them confirmation that everything was going to be OK." Michigan coach Brady Hoke knew Gardner was angry with himself, but Hoke loved the way his quarterback was able to hide it from his teammates, his opponents and the fans. "I knew I didn't have to say anything to him because I knew he was already beating himself up," Hoke said. "But no one else knew that. "No matter what happened in that game, good or bad, he just stayed calm. That's what we need from him." Instead of throwing his helmet or stomping around on the sidelines, Gardner started making promises to his players. "I told the defense that if they gave me a place to stand, and if the offense blocked for me, I was going to finish this game," he said. "That's what happened. "The defense made plays, the offense made plays, and we fought and we finished." That play will live in Gardner's nightmares, but it was a mistake on a night where he might have stamped himself as Michigan's unquestioned leader. He was 21-of-33 for 294 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another score. The magical night for Garnder started even before the game, when he donned a new jersey -- the most famous one in school history. As the final step in Michigan's process of reissuing their retired numbers, Gardner pulled on the No. 98 that hadn't been worn since Tom Harmon's Heisman Trophy season in 1940. "That was an amazing moment," said Gardner, who got the blessing on Harmon's son Mark, a star college quarterback at UCLA before becoming a well-known actor. "People know what Tom Harmon did on the football field, but they might not know that he was a basketball player here, he fought for his country in World War II and he was a great human being. "That's what I want for myself -- to be much more than a football player -- so it was an incredible honor that his family thought I was worthy of wearing his number." It made for a bizarre sight -- a quarterback hasn't worn a number that high in a long time -- but the 98 seemed to fit Gardner just fine on this night. There was No. 98 taking snaps, rolling out to pass and hitting his favorite target, No. 21 Jeremy Gallon, all over the field. Gallon finished with eight catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns. "He's like a little bulldog out there," Gardner said. "He and I have been working hard since we got here, but the fans are only getting to see the results now. "This is something that he and I have been ready to do for years." Gallon's first touchdown looked like something out of a videogame. He caught a pass over the middle, bounced off one Notre Dame defender, spun out of a crowd and sprinted for a 61-yard touchdown. "The first guy in tried to strip the ball away from me, and he ended up spinning me right out of the pack," Gallon said. "After that, I saw Jehu Chesson giving me a block and I just started running." Gallon also caught touchdown passes late in the second and third quarters, helping build Michigan's lead to 14 points, but it was little Drew Dileo who got the game-clincher. After Gardner's mistake and a Notre Dame field goal pulled the Irish within 34-30, Gardner led a five-minute drive that ended with him hitting Dileo for a four-yard touchdown pass. "That was what I told the guys I would do," Gardner said. "The defense gave me a place to stand, and the offense blocked and made plays. That let us take a lot of time off the clock, and it let us get that last touchdown. "That's what this is all about. No matter what happens, you have to win the game."var __chd__ = 'aid':11079,'chaid':'www_objectify_ca';(function() var c = document.createElement('script'); c.type = 'textjavascript'; c.async = true;c.src = ( 'https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https:z': 'http:p') '.chango.comstaticc.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')0;s.parentNode.insertBefore(c, s);)();
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