SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The announcement didn’t come as a complete surprise to Shane Morris, but it became official. Morris, a true freshman on the Michigan football team, will make his first collegiate start on Saturday in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
During the bowl’s media day on Thursday at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn and Resort, Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced that Morris will replace Devin Gardner.
"It's weird to say it, but I'm excited,” Morris said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Morris, a former five-star recruit from De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Mich, will face the Wildcats (7-5) on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.
“The last couple weeks have been really confusing, because we didn’t know what was going to happen with Devin,” said Morris, who is 5 for 9 for 65 yards with one interception in four games. “Over the past 12 weeks, I’ve prepared like I’m going to be the starting quarterback. It’s funny, because they always say, ‘you’re one play away.’ Well, it’s true.”
■ Michigan and Kansas State dined at Fogo de Chao on Christmas Eve and have sampled plenty of gourmet foods, yet neither the Wolverines nor the Wildcats have had the opportunity to try the products from Buffalo Wild Wings during their trip to Arizona. “I’m a little surprised I haven’t had a chicken wing yet, but the trip isn’t over yet,” K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller said.
■ The Wolverines and the Wildcats each received the pregame spoils of a holiday bowl game. Gift bags given to each team included team sweatsuits, a backpack, shirts and shorts, a Fossil watch, and adidas sneakers. Several of Michigan’s players, including wide receiver Drew Dileo, sported some of the new togs on Thursday.
■ While several Kansas State and Michigan players took turns posing with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl trophy, Mueller had a chance to sit at the podium and ask questions of Wildcats coach Bill Snyder. One particular question: “Which player would you invite to dinner?”
“I don’t go to dinner,” Snyder answered.
Mueller was quick to retort.
“OK, how about a coffee break?”
— Rachel Lenzi
Morris replaces Gardner, who hasn't practiced since he sustained an injury to his left foot on Nov. 30 against Ohio State.
Hoke initially said Gardner's injury was turf toe, but he said on Thursday that the redshirt junior is being examined for other potential injuries, including broken bones.
CBSSports.com reported on Thursday that Gardner broke his left foot during the third quarter of the loss to Ohio State.
“I think that's what they're worried about, the slight fractures, that kind of stuff,” Hoke said. “It's probably just a little more than just the turf toe.”
Gardner has not been made available to the media, but he posted on his Twitter account.
“HATE to miss this game, can't explain how much it hurts to not be out there w/ my brothers! I LOVE #team134! Can't wait to get back! #GoBlue”
The Wolverines’ offensive line now has to play in front of Morris, a left-handed quarterback. Right tackle Mike Schofield will take on the blind-side responsibilities previously handled by left tackle Taylor Lewan with Gardner, a right-handed quarterback.
“When Shane’s throwing the ball, his back will be to me, and that’s why it’s called the blind side,” Schofield explained. “He won’t be able to see. If I mess up, then he’ll get hit pretty hard.”
After he found out Morris was named Michigan’s quarterback, Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller issued an edict of sorts.
“He was a five-star [recruit] and I was a no-star,” said Mueller, who was second in the Big 12 with 11.5 sacks and led the conference with 18.5 tackles for a loss. “He’s talented.
“We’re going to play our game, and maybe come after him a bit.”
UM center Graham Glasgow noted Morris’ penchant for preparation, as well as his maturation in the process of preparing for Saturday’s bowl game.
"He's seemed to mature more over this past month than he has over an extended period of time, because he's needed to," Glasgow said. "That's a testament to him to getting it done when he needs to."
Morris, however, is fulfilling a goal he set for himself.
“Coming into the University of Michigan, my goal was to be the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan,” Morris said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t really have a plan to redshirt, or anything like that. Whatever the coaches needed me to do, that’s what I would have done. But right now, I need to be the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan. That’s what I’m going to do.”