The Shane Morris experiment on Saturday against Minnesota did not go as planned for the Michigan Wolverines. The sophomore was named the starter against the Golden Gophers just before the game, and new hope of offensive success was born. But after only 49 passing yards and an interception through three-plus quarters, Michigan left the game without an answer to the team’s most dire question. When Devin Gardner took over in the middle of a drive in the fourth quarter, he looked like a brand new, rejuvenated quarterback, and that’s why he needs to be the starter moving forward.
What I fear may happen is Brady Hoke could become stubborn with this decision and maintain that the coaching staff made selected Morris and are going to stick with it. In that case, the future looks incredibly dim. This is of course assuming Morris is OK after hobbling around the last couple drives and taking a huge hit in the backfield that seemed to make him woozy.
Gardner is the guy for this job, though. I was in favor of the switch today. My main justification was probably a common one: Well, it can’t hurt. Yeah, right. Another reason I wanted to see Morris get the start against Minnesota was because I thought a game off for Gardner would do him good. Constantly being under scrutiny has to take its toll. Aside from that, Gardner is also a natural competitor; he wasn’t just going to calmly accept the benching. He wasn’t thrilled with the decision, which is a good thing. Hopefully it lit a little fire.
When he entered the game for an injured Morris, you could tell he was relieved to be back out on the field, and he led Michigan on a successful drive that finished with seven points. In that drive, Gardner looked comfortable delivering the ball and getting outside the pocket to make things happen, which is something he really needs to explore more often.
Gardner finished his short outing on Saturday with 62 net yards, 21 more than Morris’ 41. I’ve said this from the beginning: I will continue to give Gardner the upper hand at quarterback because of how much better equipped he is to make plays. That’s what Michigan needs more than anything right now—someone who can step up and move the ball. That’s what Gardner did against Minnesota, and his body language suggests he got the message delivered by the benching, and he’s wanting to come back stronger.
Assuming Morris is OK to play against Rutgers next week, I would be surprised to see him get the nod again over Gardner. It comes down to which quarterback best operates the offense, and that answer is obviously Gardner.