Michigan, Minnesota both with QB uncertainty
Sep. 26, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Amid all the big-picture issues facing Michigan's football program right now — empty seats, fan frustration and the future of coach Brady Hoke — the Wolverines have a more immediate question to resolve.
Devin Gardner and Shane Morris are Michigan's two main options at quarterback, and Hoke hasn't said who will start Saturday against Minnesota. Whoever it is will be under pressure to revive an offense that has not looked good at all against decent competition.
Not that the Golden Gophers will have all that much sympathy. Their quarterback situation has also been up in the air with Mitch Leidner recovering from knee and toe injuries.
"I felt pretty comfortable back there," said Chris Streveler, who played quarterback last weekend when Minnesota beat San Jose State. "I didn't feel rattled or anything like that. Obviously, I could've thrown some better balls for the receivers to catch."
Streveler completed only one pass, but that didn't matter because Minnesota (3-1) ran for 380 yards in that game. Leidner hasn't played since Sept. 13 against Texas Christian. He's been out with a left knee injury and turf toe on his left foot.
Michigan, meanwhile, is trying to bounce back from a 26-10 loss to Utah last weekend that led to plenty of speculation about whether a coaching change could be on the horizon if things don't improve. The Wolverines (2-2) struggled to move the ball against the Utes, and Morris eventually replaced Gardner at quarterback.
Gardner has thrown six interceptions this season with only five touchdown passes, while Morris is 7 for 20 with two interceptions in limited duty. Those two have been competing this week for a job that had been Gardner's previously.
"It is more competition, and then there is the leadership end of it too — who commands the offense," Hoke said. "They have both done a really good job all year with that. I don't expect any of that to change from that standpoint. I think we would rather not (play both quarterbacks). That has not been in our discussions."
Here are a few more things to watch when Michigan and Minnesota open their Big Ten schedules:
TURNOVERS: Michigan's outlook might be different right now if the Wolverines hadn't turned the ball over 11 times in the last three games, but now Hoke's group has to face an opportunistic Minnesota team that has forced 13 turnovers this season.
Of course, the Gophers turned the ball over five times themselves at TCU in what is their only loss so far.
ATTENDANCE: Michigan drew 102,824 for a win over Miami (Ohio) two weekends ago — the team's lowest mark at Michigan Stadium since 1995. The number improved only slightly to 103,890 against Utah. Those are still lofty attendance figures by most standards, but there have been significant pockets of empty seats in the area where students usually sit — not a good look amid all the other questions about the state of the program.
BANGED UP: It's not just Leidner who has been dealing with injuries. Minnesota TE Maxx Williams (calf), DB Marcus Jones (broken hand), and DE Alex Keith (knee) have all been recovering as well from various health issues. How much can the Gophers withstand?
TOUGH D: The blame for Michigan's uninspiring start does not fall on the defense, which allowed only one offensive touchdown against Utah. No team has gained more than 286 yards against Michigan.
CAN THEY RUN?: Michigan's Derrick Green rushed for a total of 307 yards in wins over Appalachian State and Miami, but he was much less productive in the two losses. The Wolverines still need to prove they can block consistently for their quarterbacks and running backs against tougher competition.