Shane Morris simply wasn't ready to start
The biggest question mark coming into the bowl game was at quarterback, where true freshman passer Shane Morris would start for the first time in his young Michigan career. A small portion of the Michigan fan base was gutsy enough – if not asinine enough – to call for Morris to play in place of Devin Gardner, even when the embattled junior was healthy.
That small group of Michigan fans got its wish yesterday, and it's now clear to all of them that Michigan was most definitely better off with Devin Gardner. Morris connected on 24 of his 38 pass attempts, but the vast majority of his completions came on simplistic pass designs, and nearly all of his incompletions were the result of inaccurate balls or late reads on more difficult plays. An early drive that brought Michigan within four had some fans praising Morris on Twitter, only for those same fans to turn around and admit that he wasn't ready by the time the game was in its closing seconds.
Shane Morris wasn't terrible, and he wasn't good – he was a true freshman quarterback playing in an offense that was already struggling before he entered it. He made most of the plays he should have made and showcased his massive arm on more than one occasion, but there were also times when it was clear that he still has a long way to go before he's ready to see extensive playing time. You don't throw the ball to the sidelines when Jeremy Gallon runs a double move and has inside leverage.
Both Al Borges and Greg Mattison deserve criticism
Al Borges has been criticized time and time again this year, and all of that criticism was warranted. Greg Mattison, on the other hand, hasn't received his fair share, simply because his reputation has proven to be much stronger than that of his offensive counterpart. Both coordinators have produced questionable units all season long.
Kansas State's offense, of all the offenses in the country, outgunned Al Borges and made Michigan's defense look pedestrian for the entirety of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Despite the high level of talent on the defense – James Ross, Jarrod Wilson, Blake Countess, Jake Ryan and others all included – Michigan still isn't able to play aggressive, in-your-face defense. The linebackers failed to plug running lanes and keep outside contain, the defensive line didn't generate any pass rush, and the secondary continually paid for its poor technique and lack of aggression. All of this falls on the shoulders of Greg Mattison.
It's hard to tell just how poor the offensive game plan was considering all of the issues on that side of the ball. Starting a freshman quarterback and a poor interior offensive line, Al Borges decided to go with a simplified passing attack that proved to be useless. It was clear early on that Kansas State was capable of keeping Michigan's run game in check, and Borges wasn't about to open up the playbook and get aggressive with such a young passer standing behind a struggling offensive line. The game plan went overboard with the run game in the first quarter.
Brady Hoke has the 2014 season to prove himself worthy
Michigan is one poor season away from being on the hunt for a new head coach, and Brady Hoke knows it. Coming into the season, the roster had a major weakness at offensive guard and center and a minor one at wide receiver and defensive tackle. Hoke and his staff managed to win seven games with that roster this year in a weak Big Ten, effectively putting themselves on the hot seat.
Don't bring up the BCS victory in this argument, and especially don't bring up Al Borges and the many illnesses that plague this team. Every last part of the team, from the coordinators to the offensive guards, are all under the control of Brady Hoke. Al Borges has been far too inconsistent to be confident in, Greg Mattison produced an average defense that starts solid talent, and the program continues to feed off of outdated principles that simply don't win football games. Put it all together in 2014 or force Dave Brandon to make a change.
It's hard to associate any one feeling with the Michigan football program these days; the dog in the cage simply chooses not to feel rather than to move when he realizes there's nowhere else to go. Dave Brandon, Brady Hoke, and everyone besides the players have all driven ancient lingo so far into our heads that we've forgotten what it feels like to watch Michigan dominate a football game the way a program with millions of dollars and limitless potential should be able to. I didn't yell at the television set as the clock expired last night. I stared blankly into nothing, looked up and muttered the words, "This fucking blows. There's nothing else to say." No one in the room disagreed, and no one cared to say anything else. We've got nowhere else to go.
Dave Brandon won't be firing Brady Hoke this off-season. Michigan is going to limp into spring football with a roster full of four- and five-star recruits, create some hype based off of mild coaching praise directed toward young players, and then it will probably fail to live up to those expectations. This obviously isn't what I would like to happen, and there are some deep, isolated parts of my mind that still believe that this coaching staff has more potential than what it has shown, but I've been conditioned to believe that it won't happen.
Changes need to be made. Maybe Brady Hoke is capable of leading Michigan to a Big Ten title and beyond. We'll only be able to believe that when he's able to put his This is Michigan! talk aside, watch tape and scream at assistant coaches who aren't doing what they're supposed to do. If that doesn't work in 2014, it's time for all of them to go.