Mount Pleasant — Shane Morris was asked after Central Michigan’s practice concluded Friday afternoon if he ever wondered “What if,” in regards to his former school. With Michigan using three quarterbacks this past fall could he have seen himself playing for the Wolverines this year?
Morris just smiled and replied: “No, not really, I enjoyed my time there and I had a great four years there and I thank them for the opportunity to earn a degree from the University of Michigan and I’ll have that forever, but it was my time to get out of there.
“I’m happy I came here, happy that I chose to come here and I’ve had an unbelievable year here, had a lot of fun. Football has been really good to me here, these guys, the coaches so it’s been an unbelievable experience for me.”
After getting fewer than a handful of starts at Michigan and experiencing injuries during his time (2013-16) in Ann Arbor, Morris was thrilled to get a chance to play full time at Central (8-4, 6-2 MAC) and he has made the most of his opportunity, throwing for 2,908 yards and 26 TDs with 13 interceptions this season.
Now, Morris has dreams of playing in the NFL and he thinks it’s a possibility since he has showed his ability, especially during Central’s recent five-game winning streak when he threw for 1,142 yards and 14 TDs and just two interceptions.
Morris will get to showcase his talent against Wyoming Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise. Wyoming is expected to have Josh Allen in the lineup. Allen was projected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, displaying size (6-foot-5) and a strong arm.
“Yes, that’s why I came here,” he said. “I wanted an opportunity to play and Coach Bono (John Bonamego) gave me that opportunity so after starting this entire year and now seeing that I have an opportunity to go to the next level and play, it’s an opportunity that I’m excited about, but I’m more focused on winning this last game right now.”
So, what has Morris showed to the NFL scouts this season?
“I think I’ve showed them the ability to win football games, arm strength, athleticism, things like that,” Morris said. “You know, just the mental part of the game, making reads, going through that stuff, audibles. I haven’t been able to show anything (before) because I haven’t played, so just to be able to play games and start has been huge for me.
“I’m hoping he (Allen) plays, I want him to play because we want to beat that team at full strength. I know he’s a great player and guys think really highly of him so I want to go out there and compete against him.”
Morris has played at a high level during the second half of the season with players returning from injuries — receiver Corey Willis from a broken hand, tight end Tyler Conklin from a broken foot — along with the familiarity of the offense. Central went with the spread offense this season after using the pro-style system in recent years.
“I feel I’ve just made good decisions and just getting the ball to the guys,” Morris said of players like receivers Mark Chapman (54 receptions, 805 yards, 5 TDs), Willis (42, 625, 9) and Conklin (28, 406, 5), as well as sophomore running back Jonathan Ward (41 receptions) who has rushed for 988 yards. “I have a great offensive line and great receivers who make plays with the ball in their hands so I just have to find a way to get it to them.
“I mean Conklin, Willis, Chapman and Ward are great players and I’m very lucky to be able to play with them. Obviously, they’re one of the reasons why I came here. I saw what they did last year and felt we could have big successes this year.
“I’ve never played in the spread before, this is my first time since we were pro style at Michigan. I like it. It gives you the opportunity to throw the ball, run the ball a lot. It’s completely different than anything I’ve done because playing in a Michigan offense we’re using two or three tight end sets and a fullback every play. It only helps me going to the next level since I’ve played in both offenses and know the ins and outs in both of them.”
Morris knows he will have a challenge on his hands against a Wyoming defense which has forced 30 takeaways, including 16 interceptions, ranking second nationally behind Central’s 31.
But, don’t expect Morris & Co. to fold if the Chippewas fall behind. They battled back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat Northern Illinois 31-24 in the regular season finale.
“We were down 17-0 at halftime and nothing was going our way and Coach Bono grabbed us in the locker room and said we had to keep fighting since we had been in that position before,” Morris said. "The guys rallied, the seniors rallied and we scored 30-whatever points in the second half, game-winning drive to win the game ended on a fourth-and-4, awesome game, one you’ll remember forever.
“It’s huge to have this winning streak. We haven’t lost in a couple of months. It’s awesome for the school, Coach Bono and the rest of the guys. It’s been an awesome season, beating Western and Eastern (in the same season), something the seniors haven’t been able to do since they’ve been here.”
And, don’t forget the 35-28 comeback win at Western Michigan when the Chippewas came back from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring 21 unanswered points during the final quarter.
Bonamego feels Morris has a chance to be playing on Sundays in the future.
“I think he’s very deserving of a shot for sure,” Bonamego said of the 6-3 lefty. “He’s got tremendous arm talent.”
Regardless, Morris will be ready for the next step in his life.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Wyoming
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Friday, Lyle Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV/radio: ESPN/1270 AM
Records: Central Michigan 8-4, Wyoming 7-5
Line: Wyoming by 3