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Ann Arbor โ€” Sophomore quarterback Shane Morris earned the start against Minnesota Saturday because of the way he practiced last week.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke, after the home loss to Utah, said he would have to evaluate the position that fifth-year senior Devin Gardner had held since last season. He pulled Gardner from that loss with about 11 minutes left and gave Morris a shot.

Morris, who had started the bowl game last season when Gardner was injured, was expected to give the Wolverines a lift against the Gophers.

But after the 30-14 loss to Minnesota, in which Morris suffered an injury to his left leg, the starting position is unclear again as the Wolverines (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) prepare to play at Rutgers next Saturday.

"We'll evaluate it like we did last week," Hoke said. "For me to sit up here when you don't look at all the film yet, we'll evaluate it."

Michigan was minus-10 in turnover margin after the Utah game and now minus-12 after the Minnesota loss.

Clearly, the change was made in an attempt to give the offense a spark.

"That's what we were all looking for and we were hoping that was going to happen," center Jack Miller said. "I think that was probably the intention with that move, but it didn't pan out that way."

Hobbled with an injury to his left leg suffered with about 12 minutes left in the third quarter โ€” Morris was taken off the field on a motorized cart after the game โ€” he began to sputter. The offense hadn't found a rhythm before his injury, but then on consecutive drives, he threw an interception that was tipped and returned for a touchdown and then fumbled, setting up another Minnesota touchdown. The Gophers built a 27-7 lead at that point.

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UM coach Brady Hoke speaks after 30-14 loss to Minnesota

"Sometimes we want to point the finger at one guy because he's the quarterback," Hoke said. "I don't think that's fair. Obviously we've got to do a better job. There's some protection things. The pocket closed a couple times on him. The interception, the tipped ball in the line of scrimmage. We've got to have better ball security."

Miller said he has no answer for Michigan's offensive issues. Minnesota outgained Michigan, 373 yards to 171, and the Wolverines were 4-of-13 on third-down conversions.

"I really wish I had an answer for you guys," Miller said. "We're not consistent. You can't play 10-man football. One guy messes up on one play and it costs you. That's my best guess."

Hoke, when asked why Morris earned the start, said the sophomore has been practicing well since preseason camp.

"I think No. 1, and I said this before and I'm going to say this again, we have two guys we have a lot of faith in at quarterback," Hoke said. "Shane had a good week of practice. He's had good practices throughout fall camp, and he had a good practice last week."

When it was clear Morris could not play on his injured leg, he was removed two plays after taking a hard hit for a roughing penalty. Gardner entered the game and gave Michigan a boost, leading the Wolverines on a touchdown drive.

Hoke said he did not wait too long to insert Gardner in the game.

"Shane was the guy who was our quarterback," Hoke said. "I would have started him if I thought differently.You have to be present in the moment. We made a decision because of how both of them compete and challenge and we also believe that giving Devin a chance to watch a little bit and learn (would help). That's what we did."

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/chengelis

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University of Michigan center Jack Miller speaks after team's loss to Minnesota.

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