Lions brace for athletic Michigan quarterback Gardner
College Football Videos
Penn State's defense has been stellar at times this season, abysmal at others.
Inconsistent? Maybe. But closer examination reveals that the up-and-down nature of the Nittany Lions defense is directly related to the quality of the opposing team's starting quarterback.
With that in mind, guess who's coming to Happy Valley on Saturday? A quarterback considered by many to be among the nation's most dynamic.
“He's great, an outstanding playmaker,” Penn State safety Malcolm Willis said of Michigan's Devin Gardner. “So as a defense, we've really got to buckle down and get ready to take on the challenge of their offense as a whole and, in particular, of him being the signal-caller.”
Gardner accounts for an average of 270.8 yards per game (207.2 passing, 63.6 rushing). That ranks him second in the Big Ten.
The only player ahead of him is Indiana's Nate Sudfeld, who lit up the Penn State defense for 321 passing yards in a 44-24 victory in the Lions' Big Ten opener last week.
Penn State's other loss was to Central Florida in a game in which senior and NFL prospect Blake Bortles completed 74 percent of his passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
Against the two best quarterbacks they've faced this season, the Lions lost both games and allowed an average of 39 points and 496.5 yards. During Penn State's three victories, opposing offenses managed an average of 5.6 points and 211 yards.
But consider the starting quarterbacks the Lions faced in the games they won:
• Syracuse's Drew Allen was an offseason transfer making his first career start. He would later lose that job
• Tyler Benz of Eastern Michigan entered the Penn State game as 2-7 against FBS competition as a starter
• Kent State's Colin Reardon was a freshman four weeks into his playing career
Conversely, Gardner was on the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell (best overall player in college football) and Davey O'Brien (best quarterback) awards.
“He's a really, really good player,” Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. “He's a competitive guy. We've got a big challenge ahead of us playing against a guy like that who's a high-character guy and who's a really good player, the type of guy that poses a big threat any time you play against a quarterback like that.”
A converted receiver, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Gardner has the athleticism to present problems for opposing defenses. His career average yards-per-catch was 15.8, and he carries a streak of nine consecutive games with a rushing touchdown into the 5 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Beaver Stadium.
Against the best team Gardner and the No. 18 Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) have faced so far this season, Gardner accounted for 376 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-30 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 7. He's had at least 235 passing yards in three of five games and 52 or more rushing yards in four of them.
“Against him, it's really important for the linebackers to know their assignments, know their keys, know where they have to be on each individual play,” Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson said.
“He's a dangerous guy,” O'Brien said, “because he can run and throw, and there's a number of guys like that in this conference. The thing you've got to try to do is try to really keep him in the pocket. When he gets out of the pocket, he's dangerous. Very dangerous.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins call up prized defensive prospect Pouliot
- Pittsburgh police break up customer fights over Air Jordan 11 shoes
- Undersized Beachum quietly excels at 1 of game’s pivotal positions
- Penguins’ defensive depth proves valuable
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Taylor unlikely to play, Harrison ‘ready’
- Michigan State defensive coordinator a Pitt coaching candidate
- Pitt: Football coach hire comes 1st, athletic director 2nd
- Pitt’s acting athletic director is deft facilitator
- Man involved with crash with officer dies in Pittsburgh hospital
- Brass plaque stolen from McKeesport veterans memorial
- Ex-juvenile center director claims he was fired because he’s black