- ESPN staff writer
- Joined ESPN in 2011
- Graduated from Central Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Michigan — After Michigan’s 51-7 win over Colorado State, Cade McNamara said he wasn’t expecting to be in a quarterback battle with sophomore J.J. McCarthy to start this season.
Jim Harbaugh announced prior to the first game that the two would battle for the starting spot with McNamara starting the first game of the season and McCarthy starting the second. McNamara was the starter last season, helping Michigan to an 12-2 record, its first Big Ten title under Harbaugh and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
“I would definitely say it’s pretty unusual,” McNamara said. “It was kind of a thing I wasn’t expecting by the end of camp. I thought I had my best camp. I thought I put myself in a good position and that was just the decision that coach went with.”
McNamara finished the first game completing nine of 18 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown with 61 of those yards coming on a touchdown pass to Roman Wilson. Harbaugh acknowledged there were some dropped passes, but when asked about his assessment of McNamara’s performance, he was complimentary.
“I thought he was really good,” Harbaugh said. “He had a couple balls that were dropped. Pretty good executing, as I said, no issues. You gotta give credit to the quarterbacks as well when that’s taking place on offense. Moving the football, score points and I thought he had a really good game.”
McNamara said that Harbaugh doesn’t want to rotate both quarterbacks throughout the season as we saw some of last season. The quarterbacks are expecting the starter to take the majority of the snaps, but as the battle goes on, McCarthy and McNamara will continue to split duties.
“I was confident in the way I performed over camp,” McNamara said. “Definitely felt that way. However, it’s just not my decision. So, whatever it is, whatever my role is, I’m honored that my teammates recognize me for the role I have currently and that’s about it.”
McCarthy got time in the second half against Colorado State, completing four of four passes for 30 yards and running for 50 yards and a touchdown. Harbaugh said that was part of the plan to get McCarthy snaps and thought it was a good time to get him in the game as the Wolverines held a comfortable lead to give him more opportunities to evaluate the quarterbacks.
“(McCarthy) was electric when he got in, no question about that,” Harbaugh said. “Thought that he also went through his reads very well and it was great to see him just playing real super calm, cool and collected. I don’t think that’s been in vain, but he’s doing a great job, too, and really improved a lot as you would expect going from your freshman year to your sophomore year.”
McCarthy will now get his chance to start the game against Hawaii at home and prove his case for the starting spot. McNamara will also likely get snaps if the outcome is similar to the first game, but the final decision will be out of both of their hands.
“It’s been fine. This is sort of something I’ve been dealing with whatever part it was in my career,” McNamara said. “Whether it was before I played with Joe (Milton), whether it was finally going in, whether it was last season and now it’s this season. I think at this point, I have a callous made on how to deal with these things.”
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