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Jim Harbaugh mum on Michigan's starting quarterback for Penn State game

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is not tipping his hand on who will start at quarterback in the Wolverines’ upcoming game against Penn State.

Redshirt sophomore Joe Milton has started all five games this season, but redshirt freshman Cade McNamara helped lift the Wolverines to a 48-42 come-from-behind, triple-overtime victory at Rutgers last Saturday night. He took over at quarterback late in the second quarter with Michigan trailing, 17-0, and immediately sparked the team, orchestrating a touchdown drive his first series.

McNamara was 27-of-36 for 260 yards and four touchdowns in the win that snapped Michigan’s three-game losing streak. The Wolverines are 2-3 and face winless Penn State on Saturday.

Cade McNamara

When asked Monday if McNamara will be the starter against the Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium, Harbaugh was non-committal because of timing – the news conference is before the players arrive for meetings.

“Not gonna make any dramatic announcements, as per usual, at this press conference,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh, a former Michigan and NFL quarterback, was asked if he’s sensitive to making a quarterback change and if he wants a quarterback to work through issues before making a move.

“I’m just coaching it, just evaluating and coaching it,” Harbaugh said. “I do the things I think are in the best interest of the team.”

Subscription: Five Michigan takeaways: There's no controversy; Cade McNamara deserves to start

After the game Harbaugh called McNamara’s performance “gritty” and McNamara said after the win he has great confidence in himself, something Harbaugh also recognized since his arrival in Ann Arbor.

“His mindset is very good, very solid,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very good, confident. He’s got faith in his ability, works extremely hard and (is) tough, too. So really good mindset in all those areas.”

Harbaugh said a week ago the quarterback competition was open after the 49-11 loss against Wisconsin when McNamara came in and led the Wolverines to their only touchdown drive. Milton had interceptions in back-to-back possessions at the start of the game.

Big Ten honor

Michigan sophomore Giles Jackson was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance, including a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half of the Wolverines’ comeback victory over Rutgers.

The return was the seventh-longest in program history. He has had two in his career – Jackson scored last season at Maryland on a 97-yard kickoff return. He was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 4, 2019 after that game.

Injury report

Michigan has several injuries, including two starters hurt at Rutgers, but Harbaugh didn’t have significant updates on any of them.

Linebacker Cam McGrone was taken off the field Saturday on a motorized cart and after the game Harbaugh said he was awaiting results of an MRI. Safety Brad Hawkins also was injured and left the game. No specifics were shared regarding the types of injuries both suffered.

Michigan's Cameron McGrone is carted off the field after being injured against Rutgers.

“Nothing to release at this time on McGrone and Hawkins,” Harbaugh said when asked if they’ll be available for the Penn State game.

Michigan has been without starting defensive end Kwity Paye the last two games, since he was injured late against Indiana. Starting defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who underwent ankle surgery, is out for the season.

Starting offensive tackles Ryan Hayes (turf toe) and Jalen Mayfield (high ankle sprain) have missed the last three games, and center Andrew Vastardis did not travel to Rutgers because of injury.

“Some are possible (to return),” Harbaugh said. “Questionable is the word everybody understands. Guys are still working through things. We’ll see where we are later in the week.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis