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Morris and his arm fill in admirably in Michigan bowl game loss

Adam Glanzman/Daily
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By Liz Vukeilch, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 29, 2013

TEMPE, Ariz. — At the Michigan football team’s Buffalo Wild Wings media day Thursday, offensive lineman Graham Glasgow said he didn’t know what constituted a “good quarterback” other than not throwing interceptions.

Kansas State picked off freshman Shane Morris once in Saturday’s bowl game late in the fourth quarter. But even after a 31-14 loss, the Wolverines would unanimously agree that Morris is a good quarterback.

On Saturday, Morris became the first-ever Wolverine quarterback to make his first start in a bowl game, after usual starter Devin Gardner was declared out due to complications from turf toe.

Gardner is known for being a dynamic, athletic playmaker who has scampered his way out of many tight situations this season almost as frequently as he’s thrown interceptions.

Morris may not be as much of a wildcard player as Gardner, but he still filled in admirably as he used the evening as an opportunity to show off his rocket of a left arm.

“I thought he did a good job,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “I think coming into this situation, I think he prepared well. I said that all week. The way he prepared, I thought he didn't look nervous, shaky, all those things. So I was real pleased with that.”

Hoke didn’t initially plan on Morris throwing as frequently as he did, but the non-existant ground game forced his hand — the Wolverines mustered just 10 rushing yards in the first half and 65 overall. By the end of the third quarter, with the Wolverines trailing by 15, Hoke said he didn’t have enough faith in the ground game to rush the ball. That’s where Morris’s arm prevailed.

“I think some of the screens, some of those things, number one, to get Shane started, give him some confidence,” Hoke said.

Earlier in the week, the coaching staff said they planned to scale back the playbook to ease Morris’s transition to starter, and they did for the most part, keeping Morris to screen passes.

For much of the season, fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon seemed to share a brain with Gardner. On Saturday, though, he had no problem replicating that same chemistry with Morris. Gallon, who went for 89 yards during the game, set a school for most receiving yards in a season.

Though Morris appeared very comfortable leading the offense, he struggled mightily on third downs, particularly in the red zone. Twice, in the first half, the Wolverines were unable to convert on third downs, forcing field goals.

For as natural as Morris looked considering it was the first time he took significant snaps, it’s uncertain when he’ll get the opportunity to do so again — he reiterated after the game that Gardner will be back next season to try and re-stake his claim as the undoubted starter.

“Being able to play, I mean, in any game … it's huge for me to be able to get that experience moving on to next year for Team 135,” Morris said. “We’re just going to work hard for Team 135 and make strides with that.”