WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is already playing coy about his quarterbacks.
Shortly after Saturday’s 28-10 come-from-behind win at Purdue, he provided no details about starting quarterback Wilton Speight – or a possible timetable for his return.
”I don’t think it’s anything structural,” Harbaugh said. ”I think it’s soft tissue.”
Whatever the injury is, it certainly didn’t look good.
Speight left the game after he was bent awkwardly bent over on a sack from Markus Bailey. Defensive lineman Eddy Wilson, who was in pursuit, delivered a second blow – one that appeared to show his knee colliding with Speight’s helmet.
Afterward, Speight stayed on the ground, flat on his back as trainers worked on him. A few minutes later, he got up and gingerly walked straight to the locker room with four trainers in tow. He didn’t return and wasn’t even seen again.
Michigan’s radio broadcast reported that he was taken to the hospital for X-rays during the game and later returned to Ross-Ade Stadium.
Harbaugh did not confirm the report and wouldn’t say whether he thought the senior would or could play in two weeks against Michigan State.
If Speight doesn’t return, Harbaugh knows this: He has a capable, competent backup in John O’Korn, who led the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) to 21 second-half points and all four of their touchdowns.
O’Korn was the 2013 American Athletic Conference rookie of the year while playing at the University of Houston. Now the fifth-year senior, who was benched there before transferring to Michigan, could get another chance.
”It’s not up to me,” O’Korn said. ”I’ll be ready if my number is called. Everybody knows that Wilton and I are good friends, and I hate that he had to get hurt for me to go in there.”
But he played well in relief.
O’Korn completed his first five passes and led the Wolverines to their first score. Then, with a stagnant offense stuck in neutral, he jump-started things in the second half.
He converted a third-and-6 with a 12-yard completion. He converted a third-and-7 with a 30-yard completion and after Chris Evans converted a third-and-1 with a 3-yard plunge, O’Korn gave the ball back to Evans for a 10-yard TD run that gave Michigan a 14-10 lead.
On the next series, O’Korn was even better. He escaped what looked like a certain sack and throwing an 8-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones on third-and-8. Eight plays later, Ty Isaac scored on a 1-yard run to make it 21-10.
”It was more of just one of those plays where you kind of surprise yourself that you could spin out of a tackle, and you just keep your eyes downfield and find your guys,” O’Korn said, describing the play.
Harbaugh liked what he saw, too.
Now, with a bye week, Harbaugh can give Speight extra time to get healthy – and force Michigan State to keep guessing about which quarterback they’ll see.
”I thought John really played great. He was seeing things really good right from the time he came into the ball game,” Harbaugh said. ”He ran the offense well and made big plays.”
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