I was sort of forced to eat my own words last night when I found myself wanting Shane Morris to walk onto the field and give his best effort at a comeback for Michigan against Utah. Devin Gardner wasn’t making anything happen—the offense wasn’t making anything happen—and I naturally wanted a new face, a change of scenery. In reality, though, as the storms rolled in, so came the dreadful happening of Morris’ first attempt at really coming on in place of Gardner.
Gardner opened this game in incredibly predictable fashion. He constantly looked for his favorite target, Devin Funchess, put him in harm’s way with not-so-accurate balls, and he looked indecisive most of the time. I said before the game that Utah’s aggressive pass rush would either bring out the very best in Gardner, or bring out the very worst. I don’t think either extreme was met, but there certainly wasn’t anything positive coming from No. 98.
Turnovers were once again an issue, but for the first time, it was happening in front of the home crowd. Usually Gardner finds his serious struggles when forced to go on the road. Completing only 14 of 26 passes, accuracy was tough to come by all night. Balls were being thrown high, low, off to the side and everything in between. Watching Gardner go to work, it honestly felt like he should’ve thrown at least one more interception. It was just one of those nights.
So finally, to the relief of many fans, Morris entered the game in place of Gardner with 10:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The very first thing you notice every time Morris takes the field for the Wolverines is his fiercely competitive nature. He’s a pure gamer, willing to do whatever it takes. He took his third snap of the game, moved with the pocket to his right and gave a pump-fake, before taking off to open field on his left and picking up the first down. That would be the first of four third-down conversions for the true sophomore.
It’s difficult to make an accuracy assessments because playing in the rain is less than ideal, but his confidence rang just as loudly as it always does, and I was fairly impressed with most of his deliveries. Minus Michigan’s final drive, in which Morris was just heaving it up for grabs, he looked decisive and delivered a good ball, for the most part.
If Morris could have only done one thing to make a statement in his short time on the field, it would have been to take care of the ball. That he didn’t. An interception and fumble stalled two late drives for Michigan and depleted any hope of a comeback. What worries me most is the way Morris carries the ball when he decides the run. I’m completely OK with Morris letting loose here and there because he’s athletic enough to do that when need be, but if he continues holding the ball away from his body with one hand, bad things are going to happen.
So that leads us to this tough situation. What happens when neither quarterback passes the test? Brady Hoke has said he’ll have to go through and watch film with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, but what can be taken away from this game? Are they looking for who had the less-ugly outing? There are so many questions and so few answers. And I hate to say it, but I think we should get used to that.