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Michigan OC Josh Gattis: Cade McNamara, Joe Milton both played 'great' vs. Rutgers

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan’s offensive game plan heading into the Rutgers game included getting backup quarterback Cade McNamara in the contest at least for a couple of series.

But McNamara replaced starter Joe Milton late in the second quarter with Michigan trailing 17-0 and never left. He accounted for four passing touchdowns and ran for one as he helped lead the Wolverines’ 48-42 comeback victory in triple overtime last Saturday night on the road.

Cade McNamara

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did not say Monday whether McNamara will start when the Wolverines (2-3) face winless Penn State at Michigan Stadium on Saturday. Harbaugh had re-opened the quarterback competition last week, but Milton made his fifth start of the season.

Josh Gattis, Michigan’s second-year offensive coordinator, praised McNamara for his efforts at Rutgers. A week earlier, McNamara came in for Milton against Wisconsin and led Michigan to its only touchdown.

“Cade did a great job coming in and (leading) the offense (at Rutgers),” Gattis said Monday night on the “Inside Michigan Football” radio show. “I like to say, provided a spark, but really the spark as an overall team was when Giles Jackson returned the opening kickoff of the second half and then Cade coming in there at the end of the first half executing the offense.

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“He made some really good plays. I think his first touchdown pass was almost full coverage, zero pressure, which we picked up the blitz protection in max protection and he did a really good job standing in the pocket and delivering an on-time throw to Cornelius Johnson, who made a big-time play.”

Johnson scored on the 46-yard touchdown play for Michigan’s first touchdown with 3:26 left in the first half. McNamara led Michigan to field-goal range the next drive, but the 53-yard kick was short.

“Cade just has that fiery attitude,” Gattis said. “He fires up a lot of players on the sideline and gets it going. We’re very much pleased. You don’t really know about a quarterback until you see him in game situations, and that’s something that we believe strongly is getting those guys in the lineup so we can find out the most about them.”

McNamara is 31-of-46 (67.4 percent) for 334 yards and five touchdowns against zero interceptions this season. Milton is 79-of-138 for 1,056 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

“I think both quarterbacks have done a tremendous job preparing the last two weeks,” Gattis said. “No quarterback won or lost the job. In fact, on Saturday, Joe played great. It’s almost like having bad luck. Joe’s driving the first series and unfortunately (it) ends with a fumble by a receiver

“We weren’t able to put points on the board and then we just felt we needed something to kinda spark the team, spark our offense. We knew going into the game there was a high likelihood Cade was gonna play, whether it was a series or two, we wanted to be able to give him game reps. He came in and did an extremely good job.”

Gattis said after evaluating the Rutgers game film, he felt Milton performed well.

“He played a really good game, he really did,” Gattis said on the show. “He was accurate, he was on time with his throws. There were a couple reads in there we would love to clean up. The biggest thing for Joe is to now understand that, hey, this is not anything that all fell on his plate. This is not a switch at quarterback to make it look like the blame just fell on Joe Milton, because Joe Milton has played good football for us and he’s done a lot of positive things.

Joe Milton

“We’ve got to keep instilling confidence in him, telling him we trust him, we believe him, we love him as a player. This is not one sole person’s fault. Obviously, the quarterback position takes a lot of blame, takes a lot of credit, but ultimately, it’s about all 11 men on the field playing together as one.”

Harbaugh, appearing on the "Inside Michigan Football" radio show, also praised Milton.

"Joe started out well. I thought he was playing good," Harbaugh said. "We hadn't gotten on the scoreboard yet and wanted to get Cade an opportunity, a shot at it, as well. Cade had a terrific game. It was nothing that Joe did wrong or wasn't doing well. The idea (was) of both of them playing, really, and then Cade came in and got pretty darn hot."