A pretty big game in many ways for the Michigan football program. A program that has been under a national microscope since Brady Hoke let quarterback Shane Morris reenter the game in U-M’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota last Saturday, who was later diagnosed with a mild concussion on Sunday. Although, Hoke said he had no knowledge that Morris had a concussion when he talked to the press on Monday, which was later reveled that Morris did have a concussion in a statement released by athletic director Dave Brandon early Tuesday morning.
The whole ordeal has been labeled a miscommunication by Brandon. Whatever it was or is – it certainly is a disaster for everyone connected to Michigan and its football program.
But while the whole Morris situation has been negative, on Saturday there can be some solace for Hoke and his players. For three hours or so, Hoke won’t have to worry about answering questions, or worry if his athletic director is going to hang him out to dry – Hoke instead can just be a coach, and coach the team he loves – for how much longer? That can be another debate.
And while the whole Morris situation has escalated to a national story, there is still a game that needs to be played.
On Saturday night, Michigan (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) will play at Rutgers (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) as both teams will be looking for their first conference win. In Rutgers case, its first ever, since officially joining the conference this season.
However, it’s safe to say, this game is even bigger for the reeling Wolverines, who have lost three of their last four games, and nine of 13 overall. The once mighty program has fallen to new lows, and with the whole world watching even more than ever before, a win can go a long way to help mend some of the bad vibes around the program.
Truth be told, if U-M is hoping to end its current skid, it’s going to have to find an offensive rhythm against the Scarlett Knights.
Currently, the Wolverines rank 11th in the Big Ten in total offense with 358 yards per game, and are last in scoring at 22.0 points per game. They have been outscored 91-24 in their three defeats, which were all against power five conference opponents.
After benching fifth-year senior quarterback Devin Gardner last week, Hoke renamed Gardner his starter this Saturday. It was clear in U-M’s loss to Minnesota, Morris wasn’t ready for the job, and Gardner is the only man to lead the struggling Michigan offense.
And while the offense isn’t very good now, it will have to be to win at Rutgers and beat a Scarlet Knights team that ranks fourth in the Big Ten in total offense at 417 yards, and is fifth in scoring at 30.2.
Not only will Michigan need to score, it will be to find a way to win on the road, something Hoke has done very well since coming to Michigan. Overall, Hoke has a 6-9 record on the road, and hasn’t won since winning at Northwestern 27-19 in 3OT’s on Nov. 16, 2013.
With that said, it’s clear what a win would do for the program. It could quiet the critics – even if only temporally. People could talk about something other than the Morris concussion controversy, Brandon, or Hoke’s job status. They could talk about something positive – a win.
Even if they don’t win, maybe, and just maybe, playing on the field will be win in some ways, just so Hoke and his players can focus on football – and not the circus that is going on in Ann Arbor.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done.
But if they lose, the weight will continue to mount on what is looking like sinking ship. And on Saturday at 7 p.m. kickoff, we will all find out what this team has in store for the rest of the season.
Now, will they sink? Or will they swim?
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