The Wolverines may not have missed Mike Hart’s legs, but they did miss his hands.
Hart lost just one fumble all last season. On Saturday, his replacement, freshman Kevin Grady, dropped the ball twice – one week after he fumbled along the goal line against Northern Illinois.
Hart left the game late in the first quarter after Notre Dame linebacker Corey Mays hit him hard on a one-yard gain. The sophomore spent the second quarter on the sideline and did not see action in the second half.
In his postgame remarks, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said an injury had slowed Hart in practice last week but declined to discuss the nature of the injury.
“It’s not something that needs any surgery, but it’s something that could be a while,” Carr said.
It’s been widely speculated that Hart strained his hamstring in practice and aggravated it in the game. Carr did not say whether Hart would miss any games or how long it will be before he’s 100 percent.
Before leaving the game, Hart carried the ball three times for four yards. In his place, Grady received the bulk of the carries and ran well, gaining 79 yards on 18 carries.
Grady has had trouble holding onto the ball in his first two games. But unlike Grady’s “careless” fumble against the Huskies, Carr wasn’t mad about his fourth-quarter blunder.
“That particular fumble, that was caused because of great effort,” Carr said. “He was running hard, he was running aggressively, (and) he was picking up some extra yards – What are you going to do? Tell him, ‘Don’t run hard?’ That’s not part of the solution.”
In addition to Hart, Michigan also suffered injuries on the offensive line. Right tackle Mike Kolodziej did not dress for the game after sustaining an injury last week. Carr did not disclose Kolodziej’s injury or put a timetable on his return.
Senior Rueben Riley started in place of Kolodziej Saturday. Riley had battled Adam Kraus at center for much of the offseason and, in light of Kolodziej’s injury, had been listed as a potential starter at right tackle and the backup at left tackle earlier this week.
“Rueben played his butt off, and I’m proud of him,” right guard Matt Lentz said.
Tight end Tim Massaquoi also did not dress Saturday. Senior Tyler Ecker filled in for Massaquoi, catching seven passes for 72 yards. But he dropped a couple key passes late in the game. Carr listed Massaquoi’s status as week-to-week.
The injuries could have been worse for the Wolverines. In the second quarter, Lentz appeared to injure his left knee and sat out the rest of the half. But Lentz was fine and returned to the lineup after halftime.
Carr said Lentz’s absence at the end of the first half changed what he could do with his offense.
“We would have liked to have gone after it, get some points on the board in there, but we needed to regroup in the locker room,” Carr said. “Fortunately, Matt is a tough, competitive guy. With that rest, he was able to come back in there.”
After the game, Lentz made light of the injury, joking that he didn’t remember getting hurt.