"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
You might think downing a slow-rolling punt on the opponent's 11-yard line isn't much to celebrate, but that is why you are you and Dennis Norfleet is the best.
In case there was any doubt as to who won this week's otherwise-barren GIFs post, the BTN knew enough to put a camera on Norfleet before a Rutgers kickoff:
The adidas "what if we made one finger different?" gloves make this look a bit more obscene than I think was intended. Regardless, infinite eligibility for Norfleet, please—this, sadly didn't make it to the broadcast:
— Boom2daBoomBoom (@Boom2daBoomBoom) October 7, 2014
Infinite, I say, and I'll stand for nothing less.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple sacks, a couple Devin Gardner TD runs, a catch and two steps and C'MON REFS, and more.]
News bullets and other items:
It’s all in the statement
We don’t talk about injuries
Devin Gardner will be the starting quarterback against Rutgers
“Number one, thanks for coming as always. We appreciate you being here. Secondly, it was good for us as a team to get back on the field yesterday. It's always nice to get back to work, I think, coaching football and our guys getting together. They enjoyed the practice and what we got done. I think there is very much a competitive spirit and they’re excited about the opportunity to go to Rutgers and play. This is the two oldest FBS teams who play football, so I think that's an added plus.
“Rutgers [is a] very well coached football team, I think. They’re hard-nosed. You watch The tape, you watch them run around and they are 4-1. They had a close loss at home to Penn State early in the year. Led by a quarterback in Gary Nova who has broken the school record for touchdowns. Leads a very talented offense, very explosive. They have five returning starters on the offensive line back, so the experience level there. It's a physical team. Averaging 160 yards – 176 yards a carry [Ed: He meant per game. You’d think it’s been a long week or something] right now rushing and 30 points a game. Very active defense. They lead the Big Ten in sacks. They have some guys who really do a great job of chasing the ball. I think their quickness at the line of scrimmage is something that we’ll have to contend with and will present some challenges, but we’re excited about the opportunity. Playing at night is going to be a lot of fun and a great atmosphere.
Listen, there have been several apologies and statements that have been issued from the University, pledges to do better in certain areas including communication. To what extent do you feel you share in the responsibility and can help improve sideline communication?
“Well, I think from the start when you're a leader you’ve got to take responsibility, and I take responsibility for our student-athletes and I take it for their health and welfare. But I'll also make it clear that I don't make decisions when injuries [occur], and that shouldn't be a coach’s decision. That's why we have some of the best trainers, some of the best doctors in the country. We are fortunate here at Michigan because those are the type of people we attract and they will unchallenged have the authority to make those decisions.”
Hey coach, were you caught off by Dave Brandon's statement? It just seems like some of the information he released totally conflicted with some of the stuff you said on Monday.
“I don't think so. I think they worked very hard on getting it right in the statement. I think when you talk about evaluating the different things that we need to evaluate, I think that was all handled in the statement.”
[After THE JUMP: Statements about The Statement]
In hindsight, and this has nothing to do with an injury, should Devin Gardner have played earlier in the game on Saturday based on how Shane was playing?
And why not?
“Well, I think you’ve got to give a guy an opportunity to play. Shane prepared very well. We talked about it for several weeks, you know, his preparation leading up to the game. He deserved that opportunity to play and we were going to let him play.”
Doug, what was your perspective on the Shane Morris hit that’s kind of been a question after he had the hit to the head? It looked like you kind of saw him struggling on the field. What were you saying to him and what was your take on this?
“Well, I didn’t see the hit. You can’t see- everything was lost in the field of play and the guys upstairs, you know, it was third down and it was an incompletion so I was thinking- well, they say, ‘We got a roughing penalty. We’re up.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay.’ So the first thing is okay, what are we doing now? It’s first-and-10 from a playcaller’s standpoint, and then I look up and I see Shane limping. ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ and he waved me off, [saying] ‘I’m fine.’ Okay. I didn’t know at that extent what had happened, really. You don’t really know because you couldn’t see from our vision on the field and Shane’s a tough, tough guy, man.”
Did you talk to him when he came off the field, and what was sort of his state of mind and clarity at that point?
“I don’t really recall having a conversation other than ‘Are you okay?’ and then you’ve got the flow of the game and everything else that was going on.”
Coach, is it going to be difficult for either quarterback or whatever quarterback you have in there until this offensive takes a few more steps forward in terms of pass protection and things like that?
“We’re all disappointed in our performance. We needed to perform better. We needed to play better. We needed to coach better. That’s across the board, not one position. Like I said, we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better. We’ve got a lot of work to do, obviously. The only thing we can do is go back to the practice field. We went and put some pads on yesterday and worked on some things, worked on some fundamental things to try and get better at every position.”
Do you know who will be the starter next weekend?
“We’ll go through the week and we’ll evaluate it.”
Is it a question of- if Shane were 100% and nothing had happened injury-wise would that still be the case this week, or…?
“We’re going to challenge and compete at every position, like we say every week and see where we’re at and evaluate every guy. We’ve talked about it numerous times, [we] want to create competition at every position. Both Shane and Devin have done some really good things and we look forward to watching them compete and allow each other to be pushed and get better.”
With how, from our perspective- with how long it took for the final decision to made going into last week’s game…first of all, when was that decision made that Shane was going to be the starter?
“Well, I don’t think that when that decision’s made is really relevant. What’s relevant is that our players are pushing each other every day to get better and that we’re putting the best players at each position out there every Saturday.”
[More on Shane Morris and the hit after THE JUMP]
News bullets and other items
Hoke didn’t know whether Shane Morris was concussed or not
He also didn’t see Morris struggling to get off the field after the hit
No injury updates were provided
Next week’s starting quarterback will be determined after reviewing the film and, presumably, after the next week of practice
Hoke is surprised some of the same issues keep cropping up considering how hard the team practices and how good they look during the week
“Number one, Minnesota – give them credit and give Jerry [Kill] credit but at the same time we didn't… we’re disappointed in how we played football today. I think when you look at different aspects of our game I don't think we played as well as we can. I don't think we executed as well and that always comes back to me first as a coach and what we can do better to help ourselves and help our team. Didn't tackle well and that was disappointing and that part of it. And part of that [is] we needed to leverage the runs a little better. There were too many times where the ball got outside the defense and that's never good for you when you're playing defense.
"I think from an offensive perspective we struggled in a lot of different areas. DeVeon had some nice runs early in the football game but we struggled just in various different areas at times. Either a negative play that puts you behind the sticks– you've heard that; probably heard it too many times and I've said it too many times – or just not consistent in what we are trying to get done and that’s something that we have to make sure we are getting to that point where it's going to be consistency and so that's a big part of it. I think field position was a part of the game. We've got to do a better job. A couple of punt returns went for way too much yardage. I thought Will made a couple good punts and a pooch punt and kind of drove the ball a little bit but we've got to get better coverage and do a better job there.
“From the standpoint of our team and their attitude, number one, they’re disappointed and they should be. We all are. Secondly, I think the guys in that locker room, and I've said this before and you may think I'm not telling you the truth but they work their tails off and that's the sad thing is they've got to keep working and we are going to keep working for each other. We are going to keep pushing ourselves to be the best Michigan team we can be and our goals are still out there. There’s a lot of football to play and we talked in the locker room [how] there's two things you can do: you can quit, you can shy away from it or you can be honest with it and go back to work and that's what we'll do is a football team.”
Brady, can you share with us what you saw in Shane this week that gave him the start that we didn't see you today?
“Yeah. I think, number one, I've said this before and I'm going to say it again is we've got two guys who we have a lot of faith in at quarterback. Shane had a good week of practice. He's had a good practices throughout fall camp. I think that I talked about earlier in the year and he had a good practice last week.”
What do you think was wrong today?
“Well, again, I think sometimes we want to point the finger at one guy because he's the quarterback and I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's fair. Obviously we've got to do a better job with some protection things he had to step up in. Pocket closed a couple times on him. I think, you know, the interception was a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage that gets knocked up into the air. We've got to have better ball security. He’d be the first one to tell you that. A couple times the ball was on the ground but as far as how he practiced and what he did to deserve to start, he's been doing that throughout camp and fall.”
Is it still his job?
“We’ll evaluate it, like we do – like we did last week. We evaluate. For me to sit up here when you don't look at all the film yet, and believe me, you can't see everything from down there and we'll evaluate it.”
Brady, curious as to the decision to leave Shane in after he got hit. Might've had a concussion…
“Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know if he might’ve had a concussion or not. I don’t know that and that wasn’t something- Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid and Shane wanted to be the quarterback and so believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.”
Was it your decision then to leave him in after the late hit foul?
“The late hit foul…yes.”
[After THE JUMP: more on Morris’ potential concussion, finding a spark, and Hoke’s feelings on the “Fire Brady” chant]
I scrapped the original question because there's a burning one out there:
Gardner or Morris? Who should start, who will start?
Ace: Before the press conferences this week, I'd still have gone with Gardner—despite his awful performances against Notre Dame and Utah, I think he still gives Michigan the best chance to win. We've seen him at his best—and playing at his best while overcoming injury and a horrendous O-line—and that best is right up there with any college QB, while Morris has yet to show much other than similarly inconsistent, turnover-prone play in his short time on the field. If this team needs to win now, and to save Brady Hoke's job they clearly do, I think Gardner is the play unless he's so broken physically/mechanically that it's impossible for him to scrape his ceiling. (I'm about 80% there on thinking this is the case, by the way, but last year's Ohio State game lingers in my mind as a strong counterpoint—remember, that performance came out of nowhere, and he had a broken foot to boot.)
That said, the way this has been handled publicly makes me believe Morris will be the starter—why not dispel the speculation if there isn't going to be a change?*—and at this point I think they have to go with that. Most fans believe Morris will be the starter and most are ready for the change now whether or not they were on board; if they head into the Big House thinking that way and Gardner is announced as the starter, there are going to be boos directed at that decision—which is basically booing Gardner, probably the person associated with the football program who least deserves that treatment—and that's just not going to help anything. I understand the reasoning behind putting Morris in—he's the future, the present option isn't going so well at all, and he gets the chance to learn on the fly in a game setting and hopefully improve before our very eyes—but it's a huge risk for Hoke if he goes there, especially if he sticks to his word that he won't rotate QBs.
Playing Gardner comes with its own risks, of course, but the biggest risk is still playing a QB with this career stat line: 36/67, 340 yards (5.1 YPA), 0 passing TDs, 4 interceptions.
*Since the most common response I've seen to this is "so Minnesota has to prepare for Gardner," I'll note that there's no way in hell Minnesota isn't preparing for Gardner—and Morris, too—no matter what Brady Hoke says in a press conference.
[jump for the rest of us]
FORMATION NOTES: A lot of this kind of stuff.
Probably 50/50 between this and gun with more gun coming late as Michigan tried to make it look like they were trying to come back without actually doing so.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Everything as per usual, with the exception of Morris's late insertion and maybe a little more playing time for Jake Butt.
AGAIN APOLOGIES: Audio on the clips is messed up this week.
[After THE JUMP: a portal to another universe where Michigan doesn't suck (I DID IT FOR THE CLIIIIIIIIIICKS)]