Ted Janes: With a win, O’Korn would change his legacy

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 8:43pm

Fifth-year senior quarterback John O'Korn could change the story of his career with a win Saturday.

Fifth-year senior quarterback John O'Korn could change the story of his career with a win Saturday. Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

 

You could forget all about the humiliation and the wrenching losses and all the interceptions and missed passes in between.

You could forget the way Michigan’s season turned for the worse against Michigan State, the way it squeaked past Indiana, and the way it got trounced in Happy Valley.

You could forget all about how a transfer quarterback from Houston lost back-to-back position battles. And you could toss away the memories of how that fifth-year senior only played when his superior got injured, and how he lost the job to a redshirt freshman anyway.

John O’Korn could wipe away all his critics, remold his legacy, and go from zero to hero in a heartbeat…

He just has to beat Ohio State.

Welp.

On Monday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said redshirt freshman Brandon Peters was going through the concussion protocol for a hit he took against Wisconsin. Harbaugh said Peters was making progress, but he still has to go through medical assessments before he even gets the chance to practice without contact.

Michigan’s other quarterback, Wilton Speight, began practicing without contact last week after a shoulder injury he suffered in September, but it’s difficult to imagine either him or Peters ready to play this weekend.

Without those two, the weight shifts onto O’Korn’s shoulders. An upset, though, obviously would take more than just a career game from the quarterback.

A lot needs to happen for the Wolverines to beat the eighth-ranked Buckeyes.

Michigan’s defense needs to shut down quarterback J.T. Barrett, and it needs to keep running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber in check. The Wolverines’ run game also needs more from junior Karan Higdon and sophomore Chris Evans. The offensive and the defensive lines must hammer down against one of the most physical teams in the country.

But no matter what happens elsewhere on the field, no single player has more on the line than O’Korn.

It was O’Korn who threw three interceptions in the rain against the Spartans, and it was O’Korn who couldn’t pass for more than 60 yards against the Hoosiers.

When O’Korn has struggled, so has the team. When he has excelled, it has only been for one or two plays at a time. Michigan fans have yet to see the same O’Korn that Houston witnessed in 2013.

Imagine a season where he threw for over 3,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and won his conference’s Rookie of the Year award. He did all that as a freshman for the Cougars, yet he hasn’t done the same in Ann Arbor.

He has been the Wolverines’ backup quarterback since he arrived, but there is one thing he shares in common with all those quarterbacks who have played while he’s been on the bench.

None of them ever beat Ohio State. No Michigan quarterback has in five years.

Jake Rudock never did it, and Wilton Speight couldn’t do it after him. Devin Gardner played Ohio State three times, and he never won in the rivalry game either.

The last quarterback to beat Ohio State was dual-threat, fan-favorite Denard Robinson. In 2011, the Wolverines beat Ohio State, 40-34. In that game, Robinson threw for 167 yards, passed for three touchdowns, rushed for 170 yards and ran for two touchdowns.

A performance like that from O’Korn is obviously not very likely.

Honestly, calling it impossible wouldn’t be far-fetched.

Nobody expects much from John O’Korn, and that’s exactly why an upset win would change so, so much.

Janes can be reached at tedjanes@umich.edu.