Gardner started Michigan's first four games but was benched in favor of sophomore Shane Morris for last Saturday's loss to Minnesota. Morris completed 7 of his 19 pass attempts for 49 yards with one interception but was replaced by Gardner in the fourth quarter after suffering injuries that have become the center of a controversy involving Hoke, his coaching staff, team medical personnel, athletics director Dave Brandon and the athletic department.
Morris appeared to injure his ankle in the third quarter but remained in the game and absorbed a violent helmet-to-helmet hit from Minnesota defensive end Thieren Cockran. The blow resulted in Morris suffering a "probable, mild concussion," according to a statement released by Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon at 12:50 a.m. Tuesday. Morris appeared disoriented after the hit and needed the support of an offensive lineman to avoid falling over.
After two teammates appeared to signal to the sideline, Morris remained in the game for another play, attempting a pass that fell incomplete. Morris re-entered two plays later when Gardner was forced to come out of the game after losing his helmet. Hoke has come under fire for the way Morris' injuries were handled. (Brandon has also been scrutinized, with thousands signing a petition calling for his firing and students rallying against him).
Over five games this season, Gardner has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 733 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions while adding 91 yards and one touchdown on the ground. The Wolverines, which rank 12th among Big Ten teams in passing yards per game and 13th in passer rating, are 2-3 this season with wins over Appalachian State and Miami of Ohio and losses to Utah, Minnesota and Notre Dame.
- Chris Johnson