BIG TEN SPOTLIGHT: Quarterback injuries leave teams in flux
Timely bye weeks could help No. 8 Michigan and Purdue get back to full strength. Both of their starting quarterbacks could be ready to play next week.
Maryland, on the other hand, faces another week of breaking in a new starter.
On a rugged weekend when four Big Ten quarterbacks left games with injuries, the Terrapins suffered the toughest blow of all, losing Kasim Hill for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. It’s the same injury that knocked out Week 1 starter Tyrrell Pigrome at Texas.
“It just, it happened, it’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” Durkin said. “With Max (Bortenschlager) at quarterback, there were some subtle differences with our offense (last Saturday), so we’ll continue to tailor things to the guys on the field. That’s one of the things you have to do as a coach is figure out who you have out there, what their strengths are and play to those.”
Durkin, in his second season, has been through it before. Maryland has, too. This is the third consecutive season in which it has used at least three starters.
The timing couldn’t be worse, though.
Maryland (2-1), coming off a 38-10 loss to Central Florida, visits surprising Minnesota (3-0) in its conference opener on Saturday.
The prognosis around the rest of the league is better.
Michigan lost Wilton Speight in the first quarter of a victory at Purdue after being awkwardly on a sack and hit by a second Purdue player in the head or neck.
He left the stadium for x-rays and Harbaugh later referred to it as a “soft tissue” injury. Speight did not return to the game and Harbaugh said he wouldn’t play this week if the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) had a game.
But Speight’s injury led to two midweek debates: One about locker room conditions around the conference, the other about a hit Harbaugh described as “egregious.”
“If I had a stronger word to use, I would use it,” he said. “With all the emphasis on protecting defenseless players, it appeared that the player knew what he was doing. He targeted the head. (Speight) was on the ground, and he accelerated.”
No penalty was called, though two Purdue players were ejected for targeting in the second half.
Without Speight, the Wolverines rallied behind former Houston quarterback John O’Korn who could start against Michigan State on Oct. 7.
Not surprisingly, Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm took exception to both complaints.
“I didn’t see anything egregious about it,” he said. “I thought he made the tackle. I don’t think there was a flag on it was there? From my standpoint, I thought it was a clean hit.”
He also didn’t appreciate Harbaugh’s contention that Purdue’s locker room was unsanitary or the exam tables looked like something out of the 1920s.
Purdue (2-2, 0-1) even issued a statement, noting it informs teams about the lack of air conditioning at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“I know a lot of the visiting locker rooms across the country are not like going to the Marriot hotel, they don’t have a lot of frills,” Brohm said. “I haven’t been in a lot of locker rooms that have been extremely nice and comfortable for the visiting team.”
Brohm was more concerned with his own quarterback’s health. David Blough sprained his throwing shoulder in the second half last weekend, aggravating an injury he first sustained in August. He also did not return, and Brohm declined to say whether he expected Blough to play against the Golden Gophers next week.
“He will be limited this week,” Brohm said. “We’re hopeful he can practice next week with us.”
Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow’s lower leg injury looks like the least serious of the four injuries.
He was hurt taking a big hit on his only touchdown pass of the game.
Coach Tom Allen said he could have returned — if the Hoosiers (2-1, 0-1) hadn’t built such a large lead over Georgia Southern. So they held him out, hoping Lagow will be healthy enough to start at No. 4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0) this weekend.
While each of the four teams is adapting, all four know there’s only one way to move forward.
“These are all guys who have been practicing and preparing, you can go through the process of the game plan and what you’re calling, what they’re comfortable with, what they’re not,” Durkin said. “I think a week is plenty of time to get that done.”