Ann Arbor — Each week it seems to get uglier.
When will it end?
Michigan coach Brady Hoke keeps saying their goals are still there, including a Big Ten championship, but at 2-3 overall and now 0-1 in the conference after a 30-14 loss to Minnesota on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines are sinking and the fans are quaking.
There were "Fire Brady" chants, which he said he didn't hear, and a restlessness around the program that is making the noise louder and louder.
Michigan lost for the third time this season — the first time in history the program has lost three games before the end of September — and surrendered the Little Brown Jug, the trophy for which Michigan and Minnesota have competed since 1909. Michigan had won the last six meetings against Minnesota and 22 of the last 23.
"From the standpoint of our team and their attitude, No. 1, they're disappointed, and they should be. We all are," Hoke said. "Secondly, I think the guys in that locker room, and I've said this before, and you may think I'm not telling you the truth, they work their tails off. That's the sad thing, they've got to keep working.
"We're going to keep working for each other. We're going to keep pushing ourselves to be the best Michigan team we can be. The goals are still out there. There's a lot of football to be played. We talked in the locker room about two things you can do — you can quit, you can shy away from it, and you can be honest with it and go back to work."
Even a change at quarterback for Michigan couldn't infuse the offense with the spark it has needed. The turnovers didn't end either. Michigan is now minus-12 in turnover margin.
Sophomore quarterback Shane Morris got the start, replacing fifth-year senior Devin Gardner, who had been the Wolverines' starter since last season. Gardner had been turnover-prone this season, and Morris, although he had not fared much better in limited playing time before Minnesota, had earned the role during practice last week.
"That's what we were all looking for and we were hoping that was going to happen," center Jack Miller said of Morris being a spark. "I think that was probably the intention with that move, but it didn't pan out that way."
Morris could not get the offense into a rhythm and he was never physically the same after suffering an apparent injury to his left leg when recovering his own fumble in the end zone — the drive had started from the Michigan 7-yard line — and getting it out of the end zone, avoiding the safety, with about 12 minutes left in the third quarter.
Morris landed awkwardly and got up limping.
On Michigan's next possession, he threw an interception that De'Vondre Campbell returned 30 yards for a touchdown, giving Minnesota a 20-7 lead.
The following drive, Morris fumbled on third down-and-long, and Minnesota's Theiren Cockran made the recovery.
Morris was clearly favoring his left leg, but he returned to the game in the fourth quarter. On a second-down attempt to Devin Funchess that was incomplete, Morris was hit hard on a helmet-to-chin hit by Cockran. Cockran was penalized for roughing the passer.
Morris was on the ground facefirst briefly and after getting up, he had to grab onto right tackle Ben Braden to steady himself. He then detached himself from Braden and waved off anyone who wanted to help him. He stayed in the game and threw incomplete to Funchess.
Hoke said it was his decision to leave Morris in after the hit.
"I don't know if he might have had a concussion or not, I don't know that," Hoke said. "Shane's a pretty competitive, tough kid. Shane wanted to be the quarterback. If he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down."
Hoke was asked after the game if he had seen Morris wobble after he got up following that hit.
"I did not. I didn't see it," Hoke said. "I can only answer for me."
Morris left the field following the game sitting upright on the back of a motorized cart.
Gardner entered the game at that point and led Michigan to its second — and last — touchdown of the game, a 74-yard, 12-play drive. Gardner ran 3 yards for the touchdown.
Gardner was 3-for-6 for 39 yards and he also had 23 yards on five carries.
"No," Hoke said when asked if he waited too long to insert Gardner into the game. "You know, you play him, you don't play him. No, Shane was the guy who was our quarterback."
The bottom line, Michigan's offense under Doug Nussmeier, in his first season at Michigan, failed to reach the red zone in its first two losses. Then it struggled against Minnesota, going 4-of-13 on third down and being outgained by the Gophers, 373 to 171.
Michigan, which ran 53 plays, had only 83 yards rushing
Minnesota, meanwhile, looked dominating in the run game with David Cobb gaining 183 yards on 32 carries, averaging 5.7 yards a carry. Michigan's defense had allowed only 168 total yards rushing in the three previous games.
Michigan travels to Rutgers next weekend for a night game.
"We need to find a spark, we need to get rolling," Miller said. "This would have been a big game to have done that. But we definitely need to find one."