The Pack scored on its first two drives, twelve plays and 140 yards of offense in just over four minutes of actual game time. The third drive stalled though, with Mitchell getting stuffed at the line on 3rd and one. It's probably the last play that Pack fans will see from the graduate transfer until October.
It's not clear if it was that play or a previous play in which Mitchell broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot, which surgery on Sunday will repair, but the Pack's starting quarterback is now sidelined anywhere from four to six weeks according to head coach Dave Doeren. Mitchell finished a perfect three-for-three in the air for 93 yards and also rushed for 19 yards on five carries.
"I guess I don't get to try to hide the injury – I heard it was tweeted and put out there in the world already." Doeren said after the game. "Brandon had an injury to his foot and I know they'll go in tomorrow and fix it and hopefully we'll have him back sooner than later. Typically it was a four to six week deal and once they go in there kinda depends on the damage I guess. But he was walking pretty easy there after the injury so I don't know how severe it is."
In the meantime, the offense will rest on the shoulder of Pete Thomas – who has gone from presumed starter to back-up back to starter since spring practice ended a few months back. The offense clearly shifted once Thomas came into the game and briefly took a step back as it punted, then kicked a field goal, then nearly lost possession when Thomas threw a pick only to have the defender fumble the ball and Thomas recover it. The Pack ended up scoring on the drive, but the difference was clear – including the interception the drive took 18 plays and over eight minutes to get into the end zone.
"We'll be good with Pete in there too." Doeren assured the media. "We're excited about the different things we can do. We'll continue to evolve now that we got some guys out there and seen what they do under the lights and on the stage."
Certainly, the Pack can still win games with Pete Thomas at the helm. He battled Mitchell to the bitter end for the starting job and while he isn't the dual threat that Mitchell is with the ball he's a very capable college quarterback. The clearest difference once Mitchell left the was the way the Pack decided to handle the designed quarterback running plays – Thomas ran just twice the entire game while Bryant Shirreffs subbed in when the Pack wanted to run.
"It got Shirreffs in the game some – we weren't sure we were going to do that." Doeren said. "We were ready, Bryant probably played there four or five practices coming into the game. We knew we had to take some hits off Pete or Brandon whoever was in there with Bryant."
"Most of the stuff that changed was just the designed QB run game shifted more to wildcat stuff. Pete can run it as well but when you're down to two guys you gotta take care of them a little bit different."
With that in mind, it's safe to say that Thomas will not be called on to be a running quarterback while Mitchell remains on the shelf. Expect to see more of Shirreffs if the situation calls for it, and while that might lead to some predictability from the State offense it's possible that more reps behind center will allow Doeren to call a few passes with Shirreffs taking snaps.
The injury also forced Doeren to make an early decision on a potential red-shirt candidate, with Josh Taylor coming into the game to play late. It appears Taylor will function as the back-up quarterback with Mitchell out of action.
"We weren't planning on Josh Taylor playing but with Brandon being out for an extended period of time, Josh is a guy that could be in there in a heartbeat. So I thought it was great that we got some minutes for him."
Unfortunately for Pack plays, all the sudden changes lay waste the plans that Doeren and Canada had coming into Saturday's game. As a result, it could be awhile before fans see any more drives akin to the first two on Saturday – that exact offense might have to go back on the shelf for a few weeks. It won't stop the Pack from scoring points or winning games, but it might take a little bit of the excitement out of the stadium.