For the second consecutive week Michigan got off to a strong start, scoring on its opening drive en route to a dominating victory. This time, Minnesota was the foe, and while the Gophers aren’t exactly the class of the Big Ten, no other Michigan team has ever beaten Minnesota as badly as it did today.
Vincent Smith scored a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and threw a touchdown pass to lead Michigan to a 58-0 win, its first shutout since beating Notre Dame 38-0 in 2007, and its first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since a 20-0 victory over Penn State in 2001.
Denard Robinson hit Jeremy Gallon for nine yards to start the game. On the next play Devin Gardner came in and handed off to Denard, who then pitched it to Fitz Toussaint for a three-yard loss. Toussaint, however, made up for it two plays later when he busted through the line for a 35 yard rush. Three plays later, Vincent Smith punched it in from 3 yards out to put Michigan ahead 7-0.
After a three-and-out by Minnesota, which was forced by a third-down sack by Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan took over at its own 25. Denard drove the Wolverines 67 yards in four plays to get inside the Gopher 10. Two plays later, Denard took it in.
Minnesota suffered through another three-and-out before punting it back to Michigan. Nine plays later, two of which included a pass to Devin Gardner and a 15-yard run by Gardner, Michigan found itself in the endzone again. This time it was a Smith touchdown pass to Drew Dileo on a beautifully disguised play that had the entire state of Minnesota thinking it was a sweep play.
Minnesota managed to get their first first down of the game on its next play, but when faced with a third-and-one, took a three-yard loss when Jake Ryan sacked Max Shortell.
Michigan picked up where it left off with Fitz Touissaint rushing for 24 yards and Junior Hemingway catching a nine-yarder. After an offside penalty, Denard rolled right and found Vincent Smith wide open on a screen to the left. Smith, doing what he does best, found a seam and took it to the house from 28 yards out.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, with 9:38 left in the second quarter, Vincent Smith had a rushing TD, a passing TD and a receiving TD. Smith became the first major college running back to score on the ground, through the air as a passer and a receiver since Clemson’s C.J Spiller in 2009.
After a seven-yard rush by David Cobb, Jibreel Black introduced himself to Shortell for a sack. Black was the third Wolverine in the mix after Jake Ryan and Mike Martin laid their hands on Shortell to slow him down.
Michigan “stalled” on its next drive and settled for a Brendan Gibbons 25-yard field goal to go up 31-0.
Minnesota used its next drive to march into Michigan’s side of the field for the first time (I guess the Gophers weren’t in a hurry to score). Unfortunately for them it was short-lived as Brandon Green was stripped by Blake Countess and Carvin Johnson recovered it. On the play preceding the fumble we had a Will Campbell sighting in the backfield as he bull rushed the center and laid a huge hit on Shortell as he let go of the pass. It took a bit longer than I would have liked but at least we’re beginning to see glimpses of the what the former five-star recruit can do. Hopefully he can make a habit of sitting on the quarterback a la former Wolverine Alan Branch.
Michigan proceeded to move the ball 36 yards before Denard hit a streaking Kevin Koger for a touchdown to put the Wolverines up 38-0. Minnesota ran out the clock for halftime.
Michigan outgained Minnesota 384-69 in the first half alone.
The second half was more of the same as Minnesota struggled to move the ball and Michigan moved almost at will. After Michigan scored to go up 45-0, Minnesota showed some life, taking the ensuing kick off 96 yards for a TD. However, it was called back for an illegal block and the Gophers had to punt the ball away.
It was at this point, a little more than midway through the third quarter, that Denard’s day was over. Devin Gardner came in and drove Michigan down to the Gopher 15 and Gibbons kicked a 32-yard field goal to put the Wolverines up 48-0.
After another Gopher three-and-out, Michigan took over on its own 20. After a mix of plays, including runs by Gardner and 38 total rushing yards on the drive by Thomas Rawls, Michigan found itself forced to kick yet another field goal. Gibbons connected on a 38-yarder and Michigan topped the 50 point mark for the first time this season.
Two drives later, after Minnesota took over in great field position, David Cobb took the hand off and ran 28 yards to the Michigan 20. It appeared as if the Gophers would finally get on the scoreboard. Cobb took the ensuing hand off and ran right, but Michigan defensive lineman Nathan Brink came from behind and popped the ball out. It bounced right into the hands of Courtney Avery who took it to the house for an 83 yard fumble return TD. 58-0.
Minnesota went three-and-out its next drive and Michigan ran out the final 3:09 of the game. Rawls grabbed another 34 yards rushing and Gardner added another 15 to his total as well.
Denard was 15-for-19 for 169 yards, 2 touchdowns and most importantly, no interceptions. He also added another 51 on the ground and a rushing tuchdown.
Fitz Touissaint rushed for a career high 108 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown and true freshman Thomas Rawls gained 73 on 10 carries.
All-in-all, it was a great day to be a Wolverine. While Minnesota is not the cream of the crop by any stretch Michigan still showed significant improvement. The defense was getting good pressure and didn’t seem to be out of place too often. Borges finally got really creative with his play-calling and put Denard and the offense in position to make some nice, easy throws. There weren’t many down-field tosses by Denard, but he managed the passing game well and should have gained some confidence in his arm and decision making ability as Michigan heads to Evanston, Ill. next week to take on Northwestern.