ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After a weeklong debate about the significance of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry -- national, regional, historic, sporadic, mandatory, dispensable -- Devin Gardner provided an answer Saturday night.
Gardner had completed the best performance of his career on the grandest stage in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a football game (115,109). He had proven himself as a big-game quarterback with four touchdown passes and a touchdown run in Michigan's 41-30 victory, not to mention rebounding from the worst play of his athletic career. He did it in his first game wearing the very un-quarterback-like No. 98 jersey, a tribute to former Michigan star Tom Harmon, the 1940 Heisman Trophy winner, who was honored before the game.
The magnitude of the moment wasn't lost on the Michigan quarterback, who bounced around the field afterward with childlike enthusiasm, darting from teammate to teammate. But Gardner's joy didn't eclipse his perspective.
"This isn't the game that we want -- the Big Ten championship, the Rose Bowl game -- [but] this is a pretty big game," Gardner said. "... One hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and nine, that's how many people were there, not to mention the people that were watching on TV, the only game on. It's amazing to be able to participate in something like this, but this isn't the big one that we really want."
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