Ann Arbor — John O’Korn said he knew last Sunday that he would be making his first start as Michigan’s quarterback in the Wolverines’ final regular-season home game.
O’Korn is a backup to Wilton Speight, who injured his left non-throwing shoulder late in the game last week at Iowa. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh all week said Speight was “day-to-day” and also said reports that he is done for the season are “not correct.”
Michigan defeated Indiana, 20-10, and head into the final regular-season game against Ohio State with a chance to win the Big Ten East and head to the championship game and into the four-team national playoff.
Against the Hoosiers and in tough weather conditions — it was cold, windy and snowy — O’Korn was 7-of-16 for 59 yards. He also had a 30-yard run in the second half that gave Michigan the boost it needed to get the offense clicking.
O’Korn transferred from Houston, where he had started as a freshman and the first handful of games as a sophomore before losing his starting job. His teammates said all last week that he has prepared all season like he’s starting.
“Honestly, I don’t think much changed from my preparation all year long,” O’Korn said. “I don’t like to use clichés, but I was always one play away, so I had to be prepared all year. An opportunity presented itself so not much had to be changed.”
Michigan’s first touchdown was set up by O’Korn’s long run on third-and-eight to the Indiana 34-yard line. De’Veon Smith then scored his first of two rushing touchdowns, a 34-yarder with a tip of the hat to receiver Jehu Chesson for a downfield block.
“I had an opportunity to make a play the drive before that and I missed Jehu (Chesson) wide open after I scrambled a little bit,” O’Korn said. “I talked to coach (Jedd) Fisch on the phone and he said, ‘You need to make a play and change this game around.’
“The opportunity presented itself on third-and-long. I thought I was going to score. Got tackled from behind.”
Smith’s TD gave the Wolverines their first lead at 13-10 and they never looked back.
“That was tough conditions to operate, especially in the passing game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He did extremely well. Ball security was fantastic all day. Managed the team and did what he needed to. Felt like he did well.”
O’Korn said he knows he could have performed better.
“Not real pleased with how I threw the ball but that’s part of battling the elements,” O’Korn said. “Got to complete passes when opportunities present themselves. One that stands out was the one to Amara (Darboh) on the deep corner route in the third quarter. Luckily our run game and our O-line had my back today.”
Speight’s status heading into Ohio State is unclear. Harbaugh was asked if he could potentially play.
“Yeah, day-to-day,” Harbaugh said.
Speight was in uniform and made a few throws during pregame warm-ups. Will he practice this week early?
“We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “It’s day to day.”
It’s unlikely Harbaugh will be more definitive this week and probably enjoys being vague to force Ohio State to prepare for two quarterbacks.
Nose tackle Ryan Glasgow said the defense also feels like it should win games no matter who is playing quarterback, so the defensive players didn’t change their approach because of a change at that position.
“John did a great job today,” Glasgow said. “Regardless who’s playing we always say we should be able to win it on defense. If they can’t score, they can’t win.”