The Michigan Wolverines went with a change at quarterback this weekend against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, by starting sophomore Shane Morris over the incumbent starter Devin Gardner. Gardner had not looked right for most of the season, and while Morris had been less than stellar as well, it was time for a change. And things could not have gone worse, especially in terms of the Michigan coaching staff’s credibility.
Things were going poorly for Shane Morris and company in the first half. Morris struggled to make the proper reads and keep from putting the ball where the opposition could get their hands on it, though managing not to turn it over. His timing and accuracy were poor on deep routes and just in general looked off. Morris also showed a severe case of happy feet and an inability to navigate the pocket, as he regularly collided with his linemen. And then the second half happened.
Down 10-7 on Michigan’s own 7-yard line, Morris fumbled in the end zone but was able to recover it and bring it back out. Morris landed awkwardly on his left knee, and came up limping. He managed to stay in the game until early in the fourth quarter, despite taking several more ugly landings, which appeared to aggravate his knee more and more, to the point where he was barely able to stand. At this point, Morris was a dismal 7 of 17 for just 49 yards, with three turnovers, and an innumerable amount of near-turnovers. On the next play, gingerly rolling to his left, Morris took a helmet-to-helmet shot from Minnesota’s Thieren Cockran, that ESPN’s Ed Cunningham vehemently argued should have been a targeting call.
Following the hit, not only did Morris appear unsteady walking, but also looked dazed. So what did Michigan’s coaching staff do? Absolutely nothing. They allowed Morris, who should not have even been on the field for the current drive, to remain in the game, after suffering a serious knee injury and a possible concussion. It should go without saying that this was absolutely disgusting to watch, and was one of the most egregious disregards of player safety that I can recall having seen, especially at the college level.
After throwing another incompletion, Morris was finally pulled for Devin Gardner. But it didn’t end there. After several plays, Gardner lost his helmet, and due to NCAA rules, had to leave the game for at least one play. So who did Head Coach Brady Hoke and Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier turn to? Not Russell Bellomy, the third-string quarterback who had his helmet poised over his head. No, they went to the groggy and unsteady Shane Morris to limp back in and hand the ball off to running back Justice Hayes.
Michigan lost the game 30-14. Michigan lost The Little Brown Jug for the first time since 2005. And Michigan’s coaching staff lost the respect and credibility of many who saw a young man endangered in an absolutely meaningless fourth quarter. Brady Hoke had plenty of people calling for his head after last week’s loss to Utah; he should have many, many more calling for that and more after this week’s debacle.
Update: According to Joshua Henschke of maizenbrew.com, when asked about the decision to keep Morris in the game after his hit in the fourth quarter, “Hoke said he did not see Morris struggling after he was hit.” Apparently Hoke was having vision problems on the sideline, or he’s just flat out lying.
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