MADISON, Wis. — This is John O’Korn’s offense right now, whether Michigan likes it or not.
Brandon Peters sustained an injury that could keep him out of the annual rivalry game against Ohio State. The extent of Peters’ injury wasn’t known by the time Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media after the Wolverines’ 24-10 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Yet, the fact that the redshirt freshman left the field on a cart, went to the locker-room by wheelchair and then went to a hospital for testing for what Harbaugh said were head issues, doesn’t bode well for his immediate playing future.
One thing is certain: The starting quarterback carousel spins again at Michigan, a week before the season finale against Ohio State.
Right now, Michigan has to accept the likelihood that O’Korn will again become its starting quarterback, by default. O’Korn replaced Peters on Saturday in Madison, and finished 2 for 8 for 19 yards.
Nothing about O’Korn’s performance is inspiring. Nothing about O’Korn is dynamic, either, outside of his first full outing of the season in September. He threw for 270 yards on 18-of-26 passing with a touchdown and an interception Sept. 23 against the Boilermakers.
O’Korn didn’t produce similar substantial numbers in starts against Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and Rutgers. He averaged 108.75 passing yards in four starts, with 0 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions.
Peters replaced the demoted O’Korn on Oct. 28 against Rutgers and secured his spot as he helped Michigan win three straight games, averaging 108.3 passing yards and throwing 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Peters wasn’t overwhelming, but the offense was at its most fluid with him at the helm.
Until the third quarter Saturday at Wisconsin, when Badgers linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel put Peters on the ground. Even as his day was abbreviated, Peters finished with 157 yards on 9-of-18 passing.
Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst saw Peters hit the turf and thought one thing: “I hope he’s all right.”
“He was down for a long time, and I was just a little concerned about his health, and hoping that he was OK,” said Hurst, who was on the sidelines.
Michigan’s struggle in the second half against Wisconsin, however, wasn’t a quarterback problem. The Wolverines made mental mistakes and mustered little in the way of substantial-yardage plays with both Peters and O’Korn at the helm of the offense.
But O’Korn didn’t bring the same cool, calm or collected composure that Peters brought to the huddle. Michigan’s offense has to make its new quarterback feel that way, instead of the other way around.
“Encourage him,” Michigan running back Chris Evans suggested. “Just always be there for him. Let him know, ‘You’re good, you’re good.’ If you’re the O-line, just hold your block and strain, strain more.
“Adjust to the QB.”
Whether the Wolverines like it or not.