Devin Gardner helps Michigan at QB now and later


Devin Gardner helps Michigan at QB now and later

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has shown he can help the team under center, now and later.

The junior flourished in his first start at quarterback in Saturday's 35-13 win at Minnesota in place of injured Denard Robinson.

Gardner threw two touchdowns, had an interception and ran for a score, showing the Wolverines he can fill in as needed for the rest of the year and when Robinson is out of college eligibility next season.

``Devin did a nice job managing the offense,'' Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Monday. ``He made some plays, extended some plays and did a great job in that area. The one pick is one that he'd like back - we'd all like back - but I think he learned from it.''

The Wolverines (6-3, 4-1 Big Ten) learned something, too.

Or, maybe just their fans and those who can't watch did.

``Y'all just saw it on Saturday,'' offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said.

Hoke, though, made it clear that if Robinson is healthy enough to play, he will start Saturday at home against Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) and Gardner will move back to wide receiver, a position he started playing this year just to get on the field more.

A week after Hoke said he expected Robinson to play against the Golden Gophers only to keep him out of the game, he was not making bold predictions about Robinson's status against the Wildcats in a matchup of unranked teams receiving votes in The Associated Press college football poll.

Hoke, though, did sound encouraged about how well Robinson is recovering from a nerve problem in his right elbow that affects how well he can grip and throw the football after seeing what he did in Sunday's practice.

``He was able to do everything,'' Hoke said.

After a rough start against Minnesota, Gardner did everything the Wolverines needed him to do with his right arm and feet when Robinson's 34-game starting streak was snapped.

Gardner was 12 of 18 for 234 yards, creating some passing plays by moving in the pocket such as on his 47-yard TD pass to Jeremy Gallon. He accounted for his third score with a 2-yard run to help Michigan pull away in the fourth quarter.

He led the Wolverines on 91- and 90-yard scoring drives in consecutive possessions - the first time college football's winningest program had ever done that - and also helped them drive 86 and 79 yards for two other TDs.

Not bad for a player who hadn't played an entire game at QB since he led Inkster High School to the Michigan Division II finals in 2009.

``You just have to be patient and wait your turn,'' Gardner said.

Gardner insisted he didn't think about transferring earlier in his career, when it was clear he wasn't going to beat out Robinson for playing time, and agreed to move to receiver this season with the understanding he would switch back to QB next year.

He has been one of Michigan's best receivers with 16 receptions for 266 yards and a team-high four receiving TDs. That, according to Hoke, has led to Gardner being a better QB.

``Playing receiver has helped him immensely because of how receivers practice,'' Hoke said. ``They're running 40 yards every snap, and they're running back. They're hitting the sled.''


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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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