It wasn't the sight Michigan fans hoped to see Monday in Arizona: quarterback Devin Gardner exiting the team plane on crutches, his left foot in a walking boot.
The Wolverines are in the desert for their Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl matchup Saturday night against Kansas State. But they'll be without their starting quarterback for the game if he doesn't heal in a hurry.
Devin Gardner in boot on crutches coming of plane in Phoenix pic.twitter.com/7AAgBSshnI
— angelique (@chengelis) December 23, 2013
Coach Brady Hoke said Michigan is preparing to go with freshman Shane Morris at quarterback for the bowl game. Gardner won't practice today, and if he doesn't return to the field by Wednesday, he'll likely miss the game. Gardner has been battling turf toe since late in the Ohio State game Nov. 30. He visited with the team doctor Friday.
"If we were playing tonight he would not play," Hoke said. "We're going into it that Shane will be the guy."
Morris, who has worked with the first-team offense throughout bowl prep, has attempted just nine passes (completing five) in four games. Gardner racked up 2,960 pass yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to go along with 483 rush yards and 11 touchdowns. He was brilliant against Ohio State, passing for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Russell Bellomy, who missed the regular season with a knee injury but has been cleared to practice, would serve as Morris' backup.
Compounding the Gardner news is the announcement that senior kicker Brendan Gibbons will miss the bowl game because of a family issue in Florida. Gibbons, who converted 15 of 20 field-goal attempts this season, didn't travel with Michigan.
Punter Matt Wile, who filled in for Gibbons against Ohio State, will handle all the kicking duties.
Michigan's offense really came out of its shell against Ohio State with an innovative game plan spurred by big plays. But Gardner played a big role, and his absence puts a lot onto Morris, a heralded recruit who remains largely unproven. Players like Jeremy Gallon, Devin Funchess, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green will need to help out the young quarterback against Kansas State.