ANN ARBOR, Michigan — It turns out a change of quarterback isn't enough to jump-start the Michigan football team's offense. The Wolverines turned to Shane Morris for Saturday's Big Ten opener against Minnesota, but Michigan still sputtered in a 30-14 home loss to the Golden Gophers.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke declined to publicly name a starting quarterback in the days leading up to the game. Morris, along with the rest of Michigan's lineup, introduced himself as the starter on the Michigan Stadium scoreboard video boards about 14 minutes prior to kickoff.
That drew a loud applause from the announced crowd of 102,926 at Michigan Stadium, who watched their team fail to score an offensive touchdown in losses to Notre Dame and Utah with fifth-year senior Devin Gardner under center.
But it didn't take long for those cheers to turn to boos — and calls for Hoke's job — when the sophomore completed 7 of 19 passes for 49 yards before leaving the game with an apparent injury.
Michigan had compiled just 106 yards of total offense and Morris had thrown eight consecutive incomplete passes when Gardner entered the game with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter. Gardner led the Wolverines on 74-yard scoring drive in his first action, scoring on a 3-yard run for the game's final points with 7:27 remaining in the game.
Hoke stood by his decision to start Morris, who had an interception returned 30 yards for a touchdown by Minnesota's De'Vondre Campbell midway through the third quarter and lost a fumble on the Wolverines' next possession. Minnesota capitalized on that miscue by driving 30 yards in five plays, taking a commanding 27-7 lead on a 1-yard TD pass from Mitch Leidner to Maxx Williams with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
"Sometimes we want to point the finger at one guy because he's the quarterback and I don't think that's fair," Hoke said. "We have to do a better job with some protection things — the pocket closed a couple times on him — and the interception was a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage that got knocked up into the air. We've got to have better ball security, and he'll be the first one to tell you that."
After the game, Hoke told reporters he did not hear the "Fire Brady" chant that rose from the Michigan Stadium stands multiple times during the game. Asked for his reaction, he replied "hey, this is a big-boy business."
The win was Minnesota's second in 24 games against Michigan, so you can forgive the Golden Gophers (4-1, 1-0) for forgetting what they're supposed to do after winning the nation's oldest trophy game: Steal back the Little Brown Jug from the Wolverines' bench.
"I was on the field and I looked over and saw it," said junior offensive lineman Joe Bjorklund. "I ran over and was trying to get my teammates to come over, but they were celebrating. So I went over and grabbed it."
Leidner, who returned after missing last week's win against San Jose State with an injury, completed 14 of 22 passes for 167 yards. Senior running back David Cobb accounted for 161 of Minnesota's 229 total yards in the first half, which ended with the first of three field goals by Ryan Santoso to give the Golden Gophers a 10-7 lead. Cobb finished with 183 yards rushing on 32 carries, just missing his third 200-yard performance of the season.
Cobb turned a short screen pass into a 33-yard gain to set up Minnesota's first score, a 10-yard rollout run by Leidner with 8:00 left in the second quarter that tied the game at 7-7. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry against a Michigan defense that entered the game ranked ninth in the NCAA in rushing defense, allowing 80.3 yards per game.
"When you have a good horse, you ride him and that's what we did today," Kill said. "He's playing at a high level."
De'Veon Smith led Michigan with 57 yards rushing, including a 10-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.
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