Al Borges addresses challenges faced by Russell Bellomy, Devin Gardner as backup QBs
ANN ARBOR -- Russell Bellomy floundered as Michigan's backup quarterback. Devin Gardner soared.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges said both were prepared for their turns under center.
So why the differing results?
One thought: Bellomy was thrust into action at Nebraska, after starter Denard Robinson left the game in the second quarter with an injured elbow. Michigan already trailed and was playing in one of the Big Ten's most hostile environments.
That's a difficult stage for a redshirt freshman receiving the most significant playing time of his career. He didn't handle it well, completing 3-of-16 passes with three interceptions.
Gardner, meantime, knew for a week that he could very well start against Minnesota because Robinson already was dealing with the injury, and his recovery was slower than expected.
Gardner got first-team reps throughout the week. The junior called the prep work the best of his career.
Bellomy didn't have that advantage.
Borges said that shouldn't matter.
"The one thing that we do, and I've always done coaching this position, is as much as you possibly can, have the kid understand he has to prepare like the starter," Borges said Tuesday. "They have to think that way, because if they don't think that way, they're just a play away from being in the game. And if that surprises you, you got issues now -- you got problems -- because it's going to be enough of a rude awakening just to be in there all of the sudden without having the mind-set that is right for that situation.
"That's tough, guys. This position is hard to play. It is, to me, probably the most rewarding position to play when you're successful, but it is hard to play because everything is kind of different once you get out there."
Borges didn't say or suggest Bellomy wasn't ready for the stage, and said last week that the quarterback was "adequately prepared" to play against Nebraska. But he did say the situation underscores how much of a divide there is between practice snaps and game snaps.
Only so much can be simulated before the bullets fly on Saturday.
That makes what Gardner did against Minnesota -- 12-of-18 passing for 234 yards and two touchdowns on only one week of quarterback reps -- all the more impressive.
"You can train 'em, and give 'em all the scenarios and help 'em understand, 'When this happens you have to do this,' but it seldom happens exactly the way you do it," Borges said. "Some of it sometimes is instincts, and some of it is just making a play when you have to make a play, which Devin did a few times in the game.
"It's a hard position to play. It's fun, they love it, but it will test you mentally, physically, emotionally."
Gardner now is Michigan's clear backup, and he's listed as such on the team's depth chart. The No. 3 spot is less certain, with Bellomy dealing with what Brady Hoke has called an undisclosed injury.
Hoke refused to address Bellomy's "condition" Monday, only saying he wasn't sure if Bellomy would be able to return this season.
Walk-on Jack Kennedy played the final series at Minnesota.
“(The third quarterback spot is) still pending, depending on how things turn out with all these guys,” Borges said. “But that has not been declared yet.”