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Posts Tagged ‘Golden Gophers’

Michigan 33 – Minnesota 10: Higdon, Evans run all over Gophers as Michigan retains Jug

Monday, November 6th, 2017


(Patrick Barron)

Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters got his first start, but he didn’t have to do much but hand the ball off as Karan Higdon and Chris Evans stole the show, rushing for 393 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-10 win over Minnesota.

Final Stats
Michigan  Minnesota
Score 33 10
Record 7-2 (4-2) 4-5 (1-4)
Total Yards 427 164
Net Rushing Yards 371 90
Net Passing Yards 56 74
First Downs 14 13
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yards 9-85 3-10
Punts-Yards 5-204 8-388
Time of Possession 27:35 32:25
Third Down Conversions 4-of-11 4-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-0
Sacks By-Yards 5-46 3-23
Field Goals 0-for-1 1-for-1
PATs 3-for-4 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone TDs-Chances 2-of-2 1-of-2
Full Box Score

Storms that swept through the Midwest postponed the start of the game, but in front of a mostly packed Big House Higdon and Evans gave Minnesota a dose of thunder and lightning. The pair became the first duo in Michigan history to rush for at least 191 yards in the same game and Higdon became the first Wolverine to top 200 yards in a game twice in a season since Mike Hart did so three times in 2004.

Higdon wasted no time getting the party started, taking Michigan’s second play of the game 47 yards to set up a 20-yard screen pass from Peters to tight end Sean McKeon for a touchdown. After a Minnesota touchdown, Higdon took the second play of Michigan’s second possession 77 yards for a touchdown.

Two drives later, Evans got in on the action with an 18-yard run followed by a 60-yard touchdown run to put Michigan ahead 20-7.

It took Michigan a while to get going in the second half, but on their third possession of the third quarter, Higdon scored his second touchdown of the game, this time from five yards out to cap a 9-play, 46-yard drive.

The defense forced a three-and-out and Evans raced 67 yards on the first play of the ensuing possession for another touchdown.

The fourth quarter was all smooth sailing for the Wolverines and fourth-string quarterback Alex Malzone even got to lead a possession. Minnesota tacked on a garbage time field goal to reach the games’ final score of 33-10.

All told, Michigan rushed for 371 yards, sacks included, the second straight big rushing week for the Wolverines. They piled up 334 yards on the ground against Rutgers last week.

Higdon finished with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries (12.5 yards per carry), while Evans tallied 193 yards and two scores on 13 carries (14.7 yards per carry). Peters completed eight of 13 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. McKeon caught three passes for 30 yards and a score.

Defensively, Michigan held Minnesota to just 164 total yards, 90 on the ground and 74 through the air. But after having a little bit of success early on, the Gophers managed just 36 yards on 28 plays in the second half. Running back Rodney Smith, who rushed for nearly 1,200 yards in 2016, managed just 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per carry). Sophomore linebacker Khaleke Hudson led Michigan with 13 tackles (11 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a force fumble.

Next week, Michigan hits the road to face Maryland (4-5, 2-4) in a 12:30 kickoff on Big Ten Network.

Game Ball – Offense

Karan Higdon (16 carries for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns) & Chris Evans (18 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns)
Higdon gets the nod for the third time this season after notching his second 200-yard rushing game of the season. The sophomore has established himself as the lead back in a crowded backfield the past few weeks, averaging 150.8 yards per game with eight touchdowns in the past month. He’s now fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, just 60 yards behind Saquon Barkley on 33 fewer carries, and ranks second in rushing touchdowns behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor.

Not to be outdone, Evans, who most assumed would be the breakout back this season after a promising freshman campaign, had his best game of the season, nearly matching Higdon’s big night. Evans had touchdown runs of 60 and 67 and averaged 14.7 yards per carry. It was the first time this season he has topped 100 yards.

Previous:
Week 1 – Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
Week 2 — Ty Isaac (20 carries for 133 yards, 6.7 yards per carry)
Week 3 — Donovan Peoples-Jones (2 receptions for 52 yards, 2 punt returns for 104 yards and 1 touchdown)
Week 4 — John O’Korn (18-of-26 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 rushes for 12 yards)
Week 5 — Karan Higdon (12 carries for 65 yards, 5.4 yards per carry, 2 receptions for 33 yards)
Week 6 — Karan Higdon (25 carries for 200 yards, 3 touchdowns, 8.0 yards per carry)
Week 7 — None
Week 8 — Brandon Peters (10-of-14 for 124 yards and 1 touchdown)

Game Ball – Defense

Khaleke Hudson (13 tackles — 11 solo — 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
For the second time in three weeks Khaleke Hudson takes the defensive game ball. The sophomore was all over the field on Saturday night, harassing Minnesota ball carries in the backfield and sacking quarterback Demry Croft twice. He forced a fumble and set a school record with 7.5 tackles for loss. That performance catapulted him to the top of the Big Ten in tackles for loss and that game all by itself would have nearly been enough to put him in the top 20 in the conference.

Previous:
Week 1 – Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
Week 2 – Tyree Kinnel (9 tackles, 8 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception return for touchdown)
Week 3 – Chase Winovich (9 tackles – 3 solo – 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry)
Week 4 — Chase Winovich (6 tackles — all solo — 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
Week 5 — Maurice Hurst (8 tackles — 6 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss)
Week 6 — Rashan Gary (7 tackles — 3 solo — 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries)
Week 7 — Khaleke Hudson (4 tackles — 4 solo — 1 tackle for loss, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 pass breakup)
Week 8 — Maurice Hurst (8 tacles — 2 solo — 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack)

Michigan vs Minnesota game preview

Friday, November 3rd, 2017


Michigan turned to the future in the second quarter of last week’s win over Rutgers, inserting redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Peters to replace John O’Korn. While Peters wasn’t perfect he showed enough potential to give Michigan fans hope — something O’Korn couldn’t do.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 7:30p.m. EST – FOX
Minnesota Head Coach: PJ Fleck (1st season)
Coaching Record: 34-26 (4-4 at Minn)
Offensive Coordinator: Kirk Ciarrocca (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Robb Smith (1st season)
Last Season: 9-4 (5-4 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 29 – Minn 26 (2015)
All-Time Series: Michigan 74-25-3
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 39-13-1
Jim Harbaugh vs Minnesota 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2015 (29-26)
Last Minnesota win: 2014 (30-14)
Current Streak: Michigan 1
Record in Little Brown Jug: Michigan 70-23-2
Minnesota schedule to date
Opponent Result
Buffalo W 17-7
at Oregon State W 48-14
Middle Tennessee W 34-3
Maryland L 24-31
at Purdue L 17-31
#21 Michigan State L 27-30
Illinois W 24-17
at Iowa L 10-17

Peters is likely to get his first start tonight in a FOX primetime matchup with Minnesota. The Gophers are looking to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since PJ Fleck took over. Fleck rose to stardom last season when he took Western Michigan to a MAC championship and a Cotton Bowl appearance where they held their own with Wisconsin.

When Tracy Claeys was fired following the season, Fleck jumped at the chance to take the reigns of a Big Ten West team, a better situation than Chris Ash and DJ Durkin put themselves in with coaching gigs at Rutgers and Maryland in the loaded Big Ten East. If Fleck is able to rebuild the Gophers he’ll have a chance to compete with Wisconsin for the division title.

It’s not going to happen this year, however, as Minnesota is just 4-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play. They started the season 3-0 with wins over Buffalo (17-7), Oregon State (48-14), and Middle Tennessee (34-3) before dropping their first three conference games to Maryland (31-24), Purdue (31-17), and Michigan State (30-27). They bounced back with a 24-17 win over Illinois before falling to Iowa 17-10 a week ago.

Now, Fleck gets his first taste of the Little Brown Jug, one of the oldest rivalries in college football. Michigan has owned the series, winning 75 percent of the all-time matchups including 40 of the last 44. But Minnesota got the better of the Wolverines the last time they visited Ann Arbor. Fittingly, it was the game that sealed Brady Hoke’s fate when Shane Morris was concussed

With a new quarterback behind center Michigan will try to put that behind them and build some momentum heading into the final three games of the season.

Prediction

Offensively, Minnesota ranks 86th nationally and 9th in the Big Ten in scoring (25.1 points per game), 47th and 4th in rushing (182.2 yards per game), 115th and 13th in passing (156.4 yards per game), and 110th and 11th in total offense (338.6 yards per game).

Quarterback play has been erratic as Conor Rhoda lost his job to Demry Croft two weeks ago. Croft has completed just 42.7 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions. In the last two games, he’s just 14-of-43 for 186 yards. Michigan’s defense will be the best he has faced to date.

The running game, however, has been pretty steady, rushing for more than 200 times in four of eight games. Rodney Smith, who rushed for 1,185 yards a year ago, leads the team with 670 yards on 4.3 yards per carry.

Defensively, Minnesota ranks 21st nationally and 6th in the Big Ten in scoring (18.8 points per game), 36th and 7th against the run (132.8 yards per game), 23rd and 4th in pass defense (184.0 yards per game), and 20th and 6th in total defense (316.8 yards per game).

In conference play, the Gophers are allowing a touchdown more per game than their season-long scoring defense indicates. Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan State all scored 30 or more points on the Gophers, while Maryland and Michigan State both found success on the ground, rushing for 262 and 245 yards.

The biggest thing to watch in this game is how Peters handles his first start. He had success coming in as a backup last week when the opponent was not only Rutgers, but had no tape on him. Now, Minnesota has a little bit of tape and can throw things at him that he hasn’t seen yet. Can he rise to the occasion against a decent pass defense? Expect Michigan to look to establish the running game and utilize a simpler offense than the first half of the season to give Peters easy reads and greater chance for success.

Defensively, Michigan should be able to stop Minnesota’s offense with very little threat of a passing game. Like usual, the Wolverines might give up an early score, but Don Brown’s defense will adjust and shut down the Gophers the rest of the way. Michigan wins comfortably.

Score Prediction: Michigan 31 – Minnesota 7

First Look: Minnesota

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017


(Gophersports.com)

Michigan got back in the win column last Saturday with a Homecoming victory over Rutgers. Not only that, but they also saw the emergence of Brandon Peters at quarterback, something fans have been clamoring for all season. The redshirt freshman threw just 14 passes (completing 10) for 124 yards and a touchdown, but it was a solid opening performance that warrants a likely start this coming Saturday when Minnesota comes to town for a night game. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Minnesota & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
25.1 86th 26.4 78th PPG 18.8 21st 18.0 16th
1,458 1,547 Rush Yds 1,062 833
182.2 47th 193.4 38th Rush/Gm 132.8 36th 104.1 8th
4.1 4.4 Rush Avg 4.1 3.2
1,251 1,451 Pass Yds 1,472 1,211
156.4 115th 181.4 103rd Pass/Gm 184.0 23rd 151.4 2nd
2,709 2,998 Total Off. 2,534 2,044
338.6 110th 374.8 87th Total Off./Gm 316.8 20th 255.5 4th
20.7 73rd 19.8 86th KR Avg 22.6 94th 15.1 5th
4.5 104th 8.3 57th PR Avg 5.2 38th 8.3 80th
32:12 24th 33:37 9th Avg TOP 27:48 26:23
36% 96th 32% 110th 3rd Down% 36% 51st 24% 1st
8-47 11th 24-164 106th Sacks-Yds 12-60 100th 27-181 5th
24 24 TDs 18 18
11-15 (73%) 14-17 (88%) FG-ATT 8-13 (62%) 6-10 (60%)
25-32 (78%) 94th 23-25 (92%) 14th Red Zone 18-22 (82%) 55th 15-18 (83%) 63rd
18-32 (56%) 12-25 (48%)  RZ TD 13-22 (59%) 12-18 (67%)
2.03 66th 1.91 109th OFEI/DFEI 1.81 18th 1.33 14th
21.6 116th 27.0 73rd S&P+ 20.7 23rd 19.6 15th

Minnesota is 4-4 so far this season under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck and will be looking to avoid falling below .500 for the first time this season. The Gophers opened with wins over Buffalo, Oregon State, and Middle Tennessee before starting Big Ten play with three straight losses to Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan State. They bounced back with a 24-17 win over Illinois before falling at Iowa last Saturday.

Statistically, Minnesota is a slightly better Rutgers. They rank about 10-20 spots higher nationally in each offensive category and about 20-30 spots higher defensively than Rutgers did entering last week’s game. According to S&P+, however, which takes into account efficiency, explosiveness field position, and finishing drives, Minnesota actually ranks one spot lower than Rutgers’ offense does, at 116th nationally.

The Gophers rank 86th in scoring (25.1 points per game), 47th in rushing (182.2 yards per game), 115th in passing (156.4 yards per game), and 110th in total offense (338.6 yards per game). The rushing game has been held below 100 yards twice this season — 80 yards on 2.6 yards per carry against Maryland and 74 yards on 2.7 yards per carry against Michigan State. Conversely, they’ve topped 200 yards rushing four times with a high of 292 yards on 5.3 yards per carry against Illinois’ 108th-ranked rush defense two weeks ago. They also rushed for 227 yards on 4.8 yards per carry against Purdue. By comparison, Michigan managed just 139 yards on 3.2 yards per carry — on just three fewer carries — against the Boilermakers.

Minnesota’s passing game, however, leaves a lot to be desired, averaging about 25 yards fewer per game than Michigan’s. They’ve thrown for 200 or more yards just three times in eight games with a high of 239 yards in the season opener against Buffalo and they were limited to just 47 yards on 5-of-15 passing against Illinois. In fact, Minnesota hasn’t had a game with more than 50 percent completions since Week 3. In the last five weeks, they have completed just 54-of-127 passes, which is a miserable 42.5 percent, for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Like Rutgers last week, Minnesota doesn’t allow a lot of sacks. They’ve given up just eight through eight games, a total that ranks 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten. However, as we saw last week, Michigan’s defense doesn’t care. The Wolverines nearly matched Rutgers’ seven-game sack total last Saturday.

Defensively, Minnesota is pretty solid, ranking above average in the Big Ten in most categories. Nationally, they rank 21st in scoring defense (18.8 points per game), 36th in rush defense (132.8 yards per game), 23rd in passing (184.0 yards per game), and 20th in total defense (316.8 yards per game). They made it through the non-conference portion of the schedule with just 24 points allowed, but they’ve given up an average of 25.2 per game in Big Ten play.

None of those first three opponents topped 80 yards rushing, but they did average 180 yards in the air and a 56.6 percent completion rate. In Big Ten play, however, Maryland and Michigan State — both of whom have running games slightly worse than Michigan’s — found great success on the ground, rushing for 262 and 245 yards on 5.6 and 4.9 yards per carry, respectively. Michigan State did so without a single explosive run — their longest run of the day was nine yards.

Minnesota’s pass defense has been pretty consistent, allowing between 120 and 211 yards in seven of eight games. The one outlier was against Purdue, who passed for 307 yards on 12.3 yards per completion with a 69.4 percent completion rate.

Minnesota isn’t great on special teams either, ranking 73rd in kick returns, 104th in punt returns, 94th in kick return defense, and 38th in punt return defense. In the kicking game, they’ve converted 11-of-15 field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards.

This is obviously a game that Michigan should win, especially at home under the lights, but it won’t be a complete pushover. The Wolverines should be able to have success on the ground, especially if the offensive line performs like it did last week. As Purdue showed, there is potential to attack Minnesota through the air, but with Peters likely making the first start of his young career don’t expect Michigan to open things up too much.

Michigan 82 – Minnesota 74: Wolverines survive Gopher scare

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016


MAAR vs Minnesota(Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports)

After the roughest week of the season with back-to-back lopsided home losses, Michigan desperately needed a win at Minnesota to boost their confidence with the conference season coming to the final stretch.

Luckily for the Wolverines, the Golden Gophers looked like the perfect bounceback opportunity, having a still-winless Big Ten record. And for the majority of Wednesday night, it looked like Michigan would coast to the all-important victory to maintain their spot on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble behind Derrick Walton’s remarkable 19-point first half.

With 7:30 left to play, Duncan Robinson hit his second straight inexplicably wide open three-pointer to give Michigan a massive 70-53 cushion, and Minnesota seemed ready to call it a night.

Two minutes and 40 seconds later, however, and the Golden Gophers had scored 11 straight points – mostly at the free throw line – to cut the gap to just six points.

A little more than three minutes after that, Michigan found itself up a mere two points despite yet another timely triple from Robinson along the way. This time, Minnesota was simply slicing through the ever-porous Wolverine defense for uncontested layups – no fouls needed.

For those of you who struggle with math (and I’m one of them), that’s a 19-4 run that Minnesota managed to orchestrate in a less-than six minute stretch.

A loss tonight, and Michigan’s hopes of dancing would probably be toast.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman knew it, and decided to finally do something about the inexplicable comeback launched by a miserable team.

Four Factors
Michigan Minnesota
67 eFG% 50
10 OReb% 22
15 TO% 10
38 FTR 33

The sophomore received the ball in the right corner and, instead of settling for a jumper, drove straight along the baseline, lowered his shoulder, and drew an and-1 foul on senior Carlos Morris. Rahk finished the three-point play to give Michigan a bit of breathing room once again, and finished with 16 points on a perfect shooting night (2-of-2 2pt, 3-of-3 3pt, 3-of-3 FT).

Following a missed three on the other end, Michigan got the ball back with time to kill. But Walton and Robinson ran into each other, causing the ball to spill into the hands of Morris, who looked to be leading a two-on-zero break for the Gophers, giving them a chance to make it a one possession game yet again.

Yet again, though, Rahk wouldn’t have it, racing from behind to poke the ball away from a streaking Morris, then gathering it on Minnesota’s baseline and forcing up a pass before falling out of bounds. The pass was tipped by Nate Mason out of bounds, and Michigan would survive by making five of their six free throws to secure an 82-74 win, bringing their conference record to 8-4 with an 18-7 overall mark.

It’s a sigh of relief for a team that many thought was spiraling downward – and fast – after looking lifeless against Indiana and Michigan State last week. And though the defense is still far from fixed and a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Minnesota is nothing to brag about, Michigan needed to answer the bell in an undeniably must-win situation.

This was the last matchup with one of the doormat teams in the Big Ten for John Beilein’s squad, and outside of a home tilt with Northwestern, the remaining games will not be easy.

Perhaps there is still reason for some optimism, with Michigan getting back on track from deep tonight to the tune of a 14-of-25 (56 percent) final three-point mark, led by Walton (5-of-8), Robinson (4-of-7), Rahk (3-of-3), and Aubrey Dawkins (2-of-4). That will be key moving forward, considering the Wolverines still lack a killer one-on-one threat with Caris LeVert having missed his 11th straight game tonight. And with Purdue coming to town Saturday in another monumental matchup, nothing will come easy inside.

For now, Michigan will take the win and continue to look for Walton and Robinson to carry the offense as they did tonight, with a career-high 26 points and 14 points, respectively.

From here on out, it’s one game at a time. After all, that’s the only way.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
26 points (4/7 2pt, 5/8 3pt, 3/5 FT), eight rebounds (one offensive), seven assists, two steals, three turnovers in 37 minutes

**Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman**
16 points (2/2 2pt, 3/3 3pt, 3/3 FT), one rebound, two assists, two steals, one turnover in 35 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
14 points (1/2 2pt, 4/7 3pt), nine rebounds, one assist, one block, one turnover in 30 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 26
Duncan Robinson – 17
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 10
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 6
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 4-8 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 4 8 1 0 1 0 19
10 Derrick Walton* 9-15 5-8 3-5 1 7 8 1 26 7 3 0 2 37
21 Zak Irvin* 1-8 0-1 2-4 0 2 2 2 4 3 4 0 2 36
22 Duncan Robinson* 5-9 4-7 0-0 0 9 9 3 14 1 1 1 0 30
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-5 3-3 3-3 0 1 1 1 16 2 1 0 2 35
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 3
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-5 2-4 0-0 0 3 3 2 8 1 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 4-8 0 1 1 4 6 0 0 0 0 20
Totals 28-52 14-25 12-20 3 25 28 17 82 17 10 2 6 200
Minnesota 27-58 4-19 16-19 7 26 33 14 74 14 7 3 6
200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Minnesota

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016


UM-Minnesota
Michigan at Minnesota
Wednesday, Feb. 10 | Minneapolis, Minn. | 9 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -7
Offense
76.8 Points/gm 69.0
(653-1,354) 48.2 Field Goal % 41.1 (537-1,305)
(248-616) 40.3 3-pt FG % 31.6 (147-465)
(288-388) 74.2 Free Throw % 70.0 (367-524)
12.0 FT Made/gm 16.0
32.2 Reb/gm 33.7
15.5 Assists/gm 12.5
9.8 Turnovers/gm 11.0
Defense
66.0 Points/gm 74.2
(583-1,337) 43.6 Field Goal % 44.5 (602-1,354)
(175-503) 34.8 3-pt FG % 35.4 (164-463)
32.3 Opp. Reb/gm 38.8
5.8 Steals/gm 5.3
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.8
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.1) Points/gm Nate Mason (13.4), Joey King (11.4)
Derick Walton (5.6), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Jordan Murphy (7.8), Bakary Konate (4.3)

Michigan is out of the Big Ten title hunt after a horrendous week that included blowout losses to Indiana and Michigan State, both at home. The good news is the Wolverines get a chance to bounce back against one of the conference’s cellar dwellers, Minnesota. Michigan beat the Gophers in the season’s first meeting, 74-69, on Jan. 20.

Since then, Minnesota has lost its last four, and is still winless since a Dec. 16 win over Chicago State. The Gophers were 6-5 at that point, but currently stand 6-17 overall and 0-11 in Big Ten play. They rank 12th in the Big Ten in both scoring (69 points per game) and scoring defense (74.2 ppg). Only Penn State shoots worse from the field (41.1 percent) and only Penn State and Rutgers shoot worse from three-point range (31.6 percent). Simply put, Minnesota is a bad basketball team.

Sophomore guard Nate Mason (6-foot-1, 185) leads the way with 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. He almost led the Gophers to an upset of Michigan three weeks ago with a season-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He almost did the same in a close loss at Indiana on Jan. 30 with 21 points.

Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer (6-foot-4, 175) has been the other starting guard as of late. He averages just 4.9 points per game on the season while shooting just 28.3 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from three-point range. He managed nine points against Michigan in the first meeting.

Freshman Jordan Murphy (6-foot-6, 230) and redshirt junior Charles Buggs (6-foot-9, 230) are the starting forwards, averaging 10.7 and 6.2 points per game, respectively. Murphy leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game. He scored 13 against Michigan the first time out on 6-of-11 shooting, but Buggs scored just two points and missed all four shots he attempted. Sophomore Bakary Konate (6-foot-11, 235) is the center, averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 27 blocks, but was mainly a non-factor in the first meeting.

Senior forward Joey King (6-foot-9, 240) and senior guard Carlos Morris (6-foot-5, 185) are also heavy rotation players, averaging 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Morris scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first meeting. King has been hot and cold in Big Ten play with games of 22 against Penn State, 18 against Indiana, and 20 against Illinois, but has been held to five or fewer points in five of the last eight games. In the last three games, he has made just 2-of-9 shots from the field and 1-of-7 from three-point range for a combined seven points.

Freshman guard Kevin Dorsey (6-foot-0, 175) is the only other Gopher averaging double digit minutes. He was held scoreless in nine minutes of action against Michigan the first time, but scored 21 points on 10-of-19 shooting against Indiana a week and a half ago. He has scored nearly as many points in the last two games (32) as he did in the first nine games of Big Ten play combined (34).

While Michigan is expected to win this one, Minnesota surely sees it as a great opportunity to pick up its first conference win of the season. Richard Pitino will tell his team that a team lacking confidence and reeling from back to back home blowouts is ripe for the picking. But Michigan could get a much needed boost if Caris LeVert returns. He likely won’t be in full game shape even if he plays, but at least it’s an option at this point after missing the last 10 games with a foot injury.

Whether or not LeVert plays, Michigan must come out of Minneapolis with a win if it wants any hope of making the NCAA Tournament next month. At 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten right now, Michigan may need to go at least 5-2 the rest of the way and pick up a win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to earn a trip to the Big Dance. And with repeat matchups against Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa ahead, winnable games are few and far between.

Michigan 74 – Minnesota 69

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Irvin vs Minnesota(MGoBlue.com)

After Wednesday night’s game that saw Minnesota visit Michigan, Golden Gopher coach Richard Pitino revealed that he’s been pleading with his hapless team to “win ugly”.

Unfortunately, his players only got the former half of that right.

The Wolverines, however, fully personified the phrase with a thank-goodness-that’s-over 74-69 victory to move to 4-2 in conference play and 14-5 overall. Minnesota left Ann Arbor still in search of their first Big Ten win after their seventh failed effort.

Once again without the services of senior leader Caris LeVert, whose fifth straight absence with a mysterious lower left leg injury continues to make fans increasingly nervous, Michigan’s juniors stepped up to the plate to lead the effort.

Zak Irvin, whose three-point shooting mark sat at a brutal 20 percent after non-conference play, continued to show off a more confident stroke – hitting three of his five triples – while mixing in a handful of comfortable drives, dishes, and finishes at the rim on his way to a 19-point, 11-rebound, three-assist performance. Since turning the calendar to Big Ten play, Irvin has flipped a switch, with a 46.4 percent mark from deep (13-of-28) and 23 assists in six games (3.8 per on a 21.2 assist rate – tops on the team since the New Year). And while his finishing inside the arc has actually been worse than from distance (40% in conference play), the Indiana native appears to be more aggressive driving to the rack without LeVert available.

He insists that it’s all simply part of the team’s “Next Man Up” mentality.

Derrick Walton, Irvin’s classmate, helped out with 22 points and six rebounds while playing nearly from tip to buzzer. Walton struggled from deep, converting on only one of his six triple tries, but he looked better finishing at the rim last night and made good from the charity stripe (11-of-12) despite coming into the game with an uncharacteristically low 73.8 percent conversion rate at the line (he made 79.3% and 83.3% in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, respectively).

Four Factors
Michigan Minnesota
44 eFG% 47
23 OReb% 19
8 TO% 17
37 FTR 29

No other Wolverine managed to reach double figures despite what seemed like a bevy of open looks, as the team finished with a rancid 29 percent rate from three and 43.8 percent rate from two for an effective FG% of just 43.7 percent.

Despite the shooting struggles, it never felt like Michigan was in serious danger of dropping the game – even if they did appear to be in hibernation for much of the contest. For what it’s worth, KenPom’s statistical win probability meter agreed, with the Maize and Blue never falling below a 90.8 percent likelihood of pulling it out – they were up by at least three points the entire second half.

Minnesota was paced by sophomore Nate Mason’s career high 25 points on 16 shots while Carlos Morris and Jordan Murphy combined for 27 points on 23 shots. As a team, the Gophers simply couldn’t hit anything from deep when it mattered – they didn’t make a three in the second half until there were 25 seconds left in the game – and finished with a poor 27.3 percent mark from distance. The visitors did, however, have some success driving and made 51.4 percent of their two-point looks, which Beilein attributed to a defensive focus on sticking with Minnesota’s perimeter shooters. And though Beilein said that strategy worked, citing the Golden Gophers’ shooting woes, Minnesota’s strength has always been getting to the hole and drawing fouls. Still, it was never going to be enough for Pitino’s squad, who also could not overcome then-leading scorer Joey King’s quiet three-point outing.

Fortunately, style points do not come into play in college basketball, and a lousy home win over Minnesota still goes into the proper column for Michigan, who has their sights set on competing for a conference title and jockeying for position in the Big Dance. It might sound a little far-fetched right now, and I’m certainly not arguing that the Wolverines are favorites in the Big Ten, but a 4-2 record with a slew of winnable games over the next few weeks is working just fine for now.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
19 points (5-of-12 2pt, 3-of-5 3pt), 11 rebounds (one offensive), three assists, one steal, one turnover in 37 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
22 points (4-of-7 2pt, 1-of-6 3pt, 11-of-12 FT), six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one turnover in 39 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
9 points (0-of-2 2pt, 3-of-10 3pt), five rebounds, one steal in 36 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 15
Derrick Walton Jr – 15
Duncan Robinson – 14
Zak Irvin – 6
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 1-2 0-1 2 1 3 4 5 2 3 1 0 23
10 Derrick Walton* 5-13 1-6 11-12 0 6 6 2 22 1 1 0 1 39
21 Zak Irvin* 8-17 3-5 0-0 1 10 11 2 19 3 1 0 1 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 3-12 3-10 0-0 0 5 5 1 9 0 0 0 1 36
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 0-3 0-2 6-8 0 4 4 4 6 2 0 1 0 29
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 5
13 Moritz Wagner 2-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 2 4 0 0 0 0 8
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-7 1-4 0-0 1 2 3 2 7 0 0 0 0 15
32 Ricky Doyle 0-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 5
Totals 23-63 9-31 19-23 9 29 38 18 74 9 6 2 4 200
Minnesota 25-59 6-22 13-17 7 31 38 22 69 10 12 4 1 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

#15 Michigan 29 – Minnesota 26: Goal line stand brings back the Jug

Sunday, November 1st, 2015


Michigan-Minnesota(Patrick Barron)

Two weeks ago Michigan had the game won until an improbable fumbled snap was returned for a touchdown by Michigan State in the closing seconds. On Saturday, Michigan appeared to have lost when Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner connected with Drew Wolitarsky for a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. But after review he was ruled down at the one and the Michigan defense kept the Gophers out of the end zone on two tries from the one to capture an unlikely victory.

Michigan’s defense looked flat for much of the game, far from the dominant group that imposed its will on BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern to the tune of three straight shutouts. On Saturday night, it let a Minnesota offense that ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in every offensive category rack up 461 total yards. It made Leidner look like Tom Brady, completing 16 of 33 passes for a season high 317 yards. It made a Minnesota running game that ranked 84th nationally look competent, rushing for 144 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. But when it needed a stop the most, the defense that entered the game ranked first nationally in most categories came up big.

UM-Min-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Minnesota
Score 29 26
Record 6-2 (3-1) 4-4 (1-3)
Total Yards 296 461
Net Rushing Yards 127 144
Net Passing Yards 169 317
First Downs 20 20
Turnovers 2 0
Penalties-Yards 5-47 7-53
Punts-Yards 5-220 5-190
Time of Possession 28:55 31:05
Third Down Conversions 5-of-12 5-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-10 2-19
Field Goals 0-for-0 4-for-4
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-4
Full Box Score

“That’s kind of disrespectful to the d-line to run a sneak because they’re trying to get us knocked back,” defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said of Minnesota’s decision to go for the win with two seconds left instead of kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. “We talked to each other and said it’s down to us. … We knew we had to get off the field and get the win.”

On the first play from the one-half yard line, Minnesota lined up with three backs directly behind Leidner, who was under center. Two of them then motioned out wide and Leidner moved back into the shotgun with just one back, who then motioned to the right. By the time the Gophers snapped the ball, 12 of the 19 seconds had run off the clock. Leidner’s pass was off the mark with Hurst applying pressure. Two seconds remained, and instead of kicking a field goal to send the game into overtime, interim head coach Tracy Claeys elected to go for the win. But Michigan’s defensive line held strong, stuffing Leidner’s sneak attempt short of the goal line as time expired.

Minnesota got the first score of the game on a 23-yard Ryan Santoso field goal after Briean Boddy-Calhoun intercepted Jake Rudock on Michigan’s first possession. But Michigan responded with an 8-play, 57-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-3 lead. Joe Kerridge scored from a yard out.

After forcing a three and out, Michigan got great starting field position on its next possession thanks to a 41-yard punt return by Jabrill Peppers. Five plays later, Rudock found Jehu Chesson in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. At that point, it looked as if Michigan would run away with the game, but Minnesota would have none of it.

Santoso kicked a 30-yard field goal on Minnesota’s ensuing  possession, and after forcing a Michigan punt, Minnesota wasted no time finding the end zone. Running back Rodney Smith ripped off a 23-yard run and two plays later Leidner connected with Rashad Still for a 52- yard touchdown pass to bring Minnesota within one at 14-13.

Michigan’s offense sputtered and Minnesota took advantage with a 32-yard field goal as the first half clock expired. The Gophers took a 16-14 lead into the half.

Michigan got the ball to start the second half and put together a 7-play, 75-yard drive that included a 14-yard completion to Amara Darboh and rushes of 22 yards and 13 yards by Drake Johnson. But no play was more exciting than Peppers taking a jet sweep six yards into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

On Michigan’s next possession, the Wolverines were forced to punt, but Dymonte Thomas was flagged for kick catch interference, giving Minnesota the ball at Michigan’s 33-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1, Leidner faked a handoff and raced 24 yards for a Minnesota touchdown to retake the lead.

Michigan got a scare when Rudock scrambled and was hit awkwardly as he tried to slide. He came out of the game and was taken to the locker room for tests. Wilton Speight came on in relief, but wasn’t able to move the ball on his first two possessions. Minnesota added a field goal from 47 yards out to take a 26-21 lead with 11:43 to play.

Michigan began its next drive with Peppers in the wildcat, but after he gained four yards on the first play, Michigan couldn’t get a first down and had to punt. The defense forced a three and out, and after a short punt, the Wolverines took over at the Minnesota 40 with 8:36 remaining. Speight found Jake Butt for nine yards on the first play, then Khalid Hill for eight yards two plays later. On 3rd-and-10 from the Minnesota 12, Speight threw a strike to Chesson in the end zone to put Michigan back on top. Harbaugh elected to go for two to give Michigan a three point lead, and Speight hit Darboh for the conversion. Michigan led 29-26 with 4:57 left.

Minnesota needed a field goal to tie, but they only had their sights set on a win. On 3rd-and-17 from the Minnesota 18, Leidner found Smith for 17 yards and a first down. Michigan’s defense then forced a 4th-and-5, but Leidner connected with K.J. Maye for 12 yards to the Michigan 27. Two plays later, Leidner completed a 23-yard pass to Wolitarsky for what was ruled on the field as a go-ahead touchdown. But upon review it was ruled that Wolitarsky’s knee was down at the half-yard line, leading to the final goal line stand.

Minnesota out-gained Michigan offensively 461 to 296. Rudock completed 13 of 21 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Speight completed 3 of 6 for 29 yards and a score. Johnson led Michigan in rushing with 55 yards on 10 carries (5.5 yards per carry), while De’Veon Smith was held to just 15 yards on nine carries (1.7 ypc). Darboh had six catches for 73 yards, while Butt caught four for 38 and Chesson three for 33 and two touchdowns. Peppers recorded 100 all-purpose yards, 84 in the return game and 16 on four rushes, including the touchdown, while playing more than 80 plays.

Now 6-2 and 3-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan returns home to face Rutgers (3-5, 1-4) next Saturday.

Game Ball – Offense

Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
It was only a matter of time before Peppers made his mark, and he did so in all three phases of the game on Saturday night. His 43-yard kickoff return set Michigan in great field position to score their first touchdown of the game. His 41-yard punt return allowed the offense to start on Minnesota’s 29-yard line and score its second touchdown of the game. Then, Peppers himself scored the third touchdown on a 6-yard jet sweep. He also recorded three tackles — none bigger than a shoestring tackle of Leidner on Minnesota’s final drive — and two pass breakups. He was on the field for over 80 plays and his impact will only increase as his career continues.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 rec for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)

Game Ball – Defense

James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Perhaps no one on Michigan’s defense deserves this week’s game ball after turning in the worst performance of the season. Or perhaps the entire defense deserves it for stuffing Leidner short of the goal line on the game’s final play. But one play doesn’t decide the game ball, so we’ll go with the most consistent performer, and that was linebacker James Ross. He led the team with nine tackles and also sacked Leidner on 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter, backing the Gophers up to their own 11 yard line, which resulted in Michigan’s offense taking possession at the Minnesota 40. The Wolverines took advantage of the great field position by scoring the game-winning touchdown.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)

M&GB staff predictions: Minnesota

Friday, October 30th, 2015


StaffPicks_banner2015

Gopher

Michigan returns to action on Halloween night looking to bring home the best treat of the night: the Little Brown Jug. Let’s take a look at our picks.

Justin:

Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Minnesota
Justin 35 6
Derick 30 6
Sam 27 10
Josh 27 9
Joe 31 3
M&GB Average 30 7

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6

Derick:

(Full disclosure, having a bye week after a loss like that completely sucked)

There’s a lot more to this Michigan-Minnesota game than it appears at first glance. For starters, Saturday’s winner will hold the Little Brown Jug for over two years, as the Golden Gophers aren’t on Michigan’s 2016 schedule. After Minnesota embarrassed the Wolverines, 30-14, in Ann Arbor last season, and pranced around the field with the Jug well after the final whistle, I fully expected Jim Harbaugh to run this ‘rival’ into the ground.

But on Wednesday, Minnesota’s widely beloved head coach Jerry Kill made the startling announcement that his health is forcing him to retire from football immediately. Kill battled health issues over the past several years, but he said the seizures have reached a point where he risks permanent mental damage if he doesn’t leave the sideline and get the proper care. I think Kill’s announcement takes some of the venom out of the contest and will likely rally the Golden Gophers, who’ve been awful since the start of conference play.

Minnesota’s only chance to steal this game will come in the passing game. Michigan’s passing game, to be more specific. The Gophers allow only 177.3 passing yards per game — 18th best in the country — and Michigan has been one of the worst passing offenses in the entire country. If Minnesota can focus entirely on shutting down Michigan’s running game and force Jake Rudock to win the game through the air, it’ll at least give the home team a fighting chance.

I don’t think that’ll happen.

Michigan owns the best defense in the country, and Mitch Leidner isn’t going to move the ball against a secondary that needs to bounce back from an awful week against two-man wrecking crew Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge. That means Michigan will dominate time of possession and wear down the Minnesota defense with battering rams like De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson (who’s been fully cleared to play).

There’s a realistic chance Michigan will post another shutout in Minneapolis, but I’ll toss the Gophers a pair of field goals in a Michigan win.

Michigan 30 – Minnesota 6

Sam:

After a tough loss and a week of improvement, Michigan is ready to take the field on a chilly, spooky Halloween night against a Minnesota team that is sure to play inspired ball after losing its coach, Jerry Kill, to sudden health-induced retirement earlier this week. I’m sure the Golden Gophers will be giving it all they have, but Michigan’s defense should dominate what’s been a very mediocre offense so far. I’ll take the Wolverines to bounce back.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 10

Josh:

After a much needed bye, er improvement, week Michigan looks to get back on track versus the Gophers this week. With the news of Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement one would expect the Gophers to play with a little extra umph. Sadly, for them anyway, this won’t do much to help them win the game. Michigan’s defense has been firing on all cylinders, no one can run on them and the only quarterback to have success in the air is a likely first-round NFL pick. Minnesota’s defense has been banged up but appears to have benefited from their bye as well and should be closer to full-strength.

On offense Michigan will continue to employ what former Buckeye Joey Galloway calls a boring offense; but he’s just too stupid to understand all the complexities of various alignments and personnel though, credit that ‘quality’ OSU education. Anyway, Michigan will keep up its ground and pound style and with Drake Johnson looking to get back in the mix I think we’ll see a rebound performance against a lackluster run defense. The one thing that worries me, or would if Minnesota was any good on offense, is that the Gopher’s pass defense is their strength and if Rudock is called upon to win the game with his arm that could make for a very close, and uncomfortable game for Michigan. I don’t see that happening unless there is a complete collapse of the Michigan defense and a complete shut down of the run game.

On defense Michigan will pick right up where they left off; stifling the run and causing fits in the passing game. Mitch Leidner isn’t a great passer and I don’t expect him to try and test this secondary all that often, so the game rests on the legs of two true freshman running backs to help the Gophers get things going. Unfortunately for them Michigan’s run defense doesn’t let anyone run on them, I don’t see this changing this weekend. Nor do I see great play calls by Minneosta, like the 74-yard pass to the fullback last week, or any coverage busts, like the same fullback play last week. I don’t want to say they’ll be shut out but I don’t see them hitting double digit points, aside from any garbage time points anyway.

Michigan should roll over Minnesota and reclaim the Little Brown Jug, and keep it for quite some time. This one starts slow with the Gophers getting some extra energy from playing for the former coach and what should be a raucous night crowd at TCF. But Michigan’s defense will quiet the crowd and take complete control of the game.

Michigan 27 – Minnesota 9

Joe:

Big week in Minnesota. Big..Big…Big. We will see which team is tougher, mentally. Minnesota lost their coach and we all know what the Maize and Blue lost two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure that Harbaugh will have this team geared up and ready to finish the season strong. Rudock will need to be smart and keep the turnovers to a minimum. Minnesota’s defense can be tough and will be looking for the upset in honor of their retiring leader. The offense will keep the ball moving with big plays from the rotating backfield while the defense will look to create turnovers and continue pressuring the quarterback. The Minnesota offense is not exactly a powerhouse and can be pressured into making huge mistakes. I look for Michigan to create pressure and therefore get a few interceptions. One or more may get taken back to the house.

Michigan 31 – Minnesota 3

#15 Michigan vs Minnesota game preview

Friday, October 30th, 2015


Game Preview_Minnesota_banner

After a week off Michigan returns to the field tomorrow night looking to get the bad taste of the Michigan State loss out of its collective mouth. The Wolverines travel north to Minneapolis to face a Golden Gophers squad that just lost its coach.

UM-Min-small
Quick Facts
TCF Bank Stadium – 7p.m. EST – ESPN
Minn Head Coach: Tracy Claeys (Interim)
Coaching Record: (0-0)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover (5th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys (5th season)
Last Season: 8-5 (5-3)
Last Meeting: Minn 30 – UM 14 (2014)
All-Time Series: UM leads 73-25-3
For the Little Brown Jug: UM leads 69-23-2
Record in Minneapolis: UM leads 32-12-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Minn: 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2013 (42-13)
Last Minnesota win: 2014 (30-14)
Current Streak: Minnesota 1

Jerry Kill abruptly announced his retirement due to health reasons on Wednesday. In the four-plus seasons on the job Kill turned around a struggling Minnesota program into a Big Ten title contender, achieving 8-5 records in 2013 and 2014. The Gophers finished second in the Big Ten West last fall and began this season with a close, six point loss to TCU. But after wins over Colorado State (23-20 in overtime), Kent State (10-7), and Ohio University (27-24), Minnesota has dropped two of its last three. Northwestern shut out the Gophers 27-0 the week before Michigan shut out the Wildcats 38-0. Then, after beating Purdue 41-13, Minnesota dropped a 48-25 contest to Nebraska.

Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys stepped in as the interim head coach for the balance of the season. Interestingly, the last time Michigan visited Minneapolis Kill missed the game due to a seizure and Claeys coached it. Michigan won that one 42-13, but the Wolverines were embarrassed a year ago in the Big House. Shane Morris started the game, but suffered a “probable, mild concussion,” which may have been the last straw for Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon.

Minnesota wants a win for Coach Kill and to avoid falling to .500. Michigan wants this win to regain the Little Brown Jug, to get past the Michigan State loss, and to remain in the Big Ten title hunt.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Minnesota has the ball

Minnesota’s offense ranks 101st nationally and 11th in the Big Ten in total offense (351 yards per game), 84th and ninth in rushing (156.7 yards per game), 95th and 11th in passing (194.3 yards per game), 106th and 11th in pass efficiency (113.31), and 110th and 14th in scoring (20.4 points per game).

Quarterback Mitch Leidner ranks ninth in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 187.1 yards per game, one yard more than Jake Rudock. Leidner has completed 59.2 percent of his passes (Rudock 61.7 percent) for 1,310 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also the team’s third leading rusher with 121 yards (2.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Rodney Smith leads the way on the ground with 467 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and one score, averaging 66.7 yards per game. He had a 100-yard game in Week 2 against Colorado State, but managed just 20 yards on eight carries against Nebraska last time out. True freshman Shannon Brooks leads the team in yards per carry (7.0). He didn’t play in the first three games of the season but has shared the load with Smith the last four. He broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Purdue but like Smith was held to just 25 yards on eight carries against Nebraska.

Four Gopher receivers have over 100 receiving yards on the season, led by senior K.J. Maye‘s 350 yards and three touchdowns. Maye had his best game of the season against Nebraska when he caught 11 passes for 94 yards, but after scoring touchdowns in each of the first three games, he has been held out of the end zone in the last four. Junior Drew Wolitarsky is just behind Maye with 297 yards and one score, while redshirt sophomore Eric Carter has 21 receptions for 245 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen is the fourth with more than 100 yards (109) and he’s the only pass catcher other than Maye with multiple touchdowns (two).

The offensive line has seen some injuries this season and left tackle Josh Campion, who had started 39 straight games entering the season, and center Brian Bobek, an Ohio State transfer who began the season as the starting center, are still out this week.

Redshirt junior left tackle Ben Lauer has 12 career starts under his belt. He was the starting left tackle entering the season, but an injury caused him to miss three of the next four games. He returned against Purdue and Nebraska. Fifth year senior left guard Joe Bjorklund has 10 career starts including seven last season. True freshman Tyler Moore is forced into action, while sophomore right guard Conner Mayes and redshirt junior right tackle Jonah Pirsig have both started every game this season.

When Michigan has the ball

Minnesota’s defense ranks 28th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten in total defense (328.7 yards per game), 52nd and 9th in rush defense (151.4 yards per game), 18th and 5th in pass defense (177.3 yards per game), 21st and 6th in pass defense efficiency (107.91), and 45th and 9th in scoring defense (23.1 points per game).

The defensive line is anchored by sophomore tackle Steven Richardson, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. The other tackle, Scott Ekpe has yet to record a sack, but has two tackles for loss. Fifth year senior defensive end Thieren Cockran has seemingly been around forever and is the Gopher that gave Shane Morris his concussion last season. He has two sacks and five tackles for loss, while the other end, Hendrick Ekpe, has a half of a sack.

Redshirt junior linebacker Jack Lynn is the team’s third leading tackler with 36 and has the second most tackles for loss with six. Fifth year senior De’Vondre Campbell is a multi-year stater and has 34 tackles, one sack, an interception and four passes defended. Sophomore Jonathan Celestin is the third starter at linebacker with 28 tackles and three for loss. Redshirt sophomore Cody Poock is the top reserve as the team’s second leading tackler.

Senior safety Antonio Johnson leads the team with 48 tackles to go along with two for loss, two passes defended, and a fumble recovery. The other safety is redshirt sophomore Adekunle Ayinde, who 22 tackles and four passes defended. Senior Eric Murray and fifth year senior Briean Boddy-Calhoun are the starting corners, while Jalen Myrick is the nickel corner. Myrick leads the team with three interceptions and six passes defended, while Murray also has a pick.

The other third

Both kicking specialists are veterans. Kicker Ryan Santoso was the team’s kicker as a redshirt freshman in 2014, connecting on 12 of 18 field goal attempts with a long of 52. So far this season he is 10 of 13 with a long of 50. Fifth year senior punter Peter Mortell ranks fourth in the Big Ten with an average of 44.0 yards per punt. He has booted 12 of his 43 punts longer than 50 yards and downed 18 inside the 20.

Myrick and Brooks share the kick return duties, averaging 21.4 and 18.7 yards per return, respectively. Sophomore defensive back Craig James is the normal punt returner, but is out with an injury, so Myrick and freshman KiAnte Hardin will do the job.

Prediction

Michigan will come out focused and determined to reclaim the Little Brown Jug and stay in the Big Ten title hunt. Minnesota’s defense is just average against the run and allowed 203 yards on 5.3 yards per carry to Nebraska, which managed just 82 rushing yards last week against Northwestern. Expect a heavy dose of De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson, who should finally be healthy.

Minnesota doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Michigan, so the main question will be whether or not Michigan’s defense can record its fourth shutout of the season. Northwestern shut Minnesota out 27-0 and the Gophers managed just 10 points against Kent State, who is just 3-5 at this point and has given up at least 10 points in every other game.

It won’t be a pretty or exciting game, but it will be classic Jim Harbaugh as Michigan pounds the ball on the ground and wears down the Gopher defense. Jake Rudock has a classic Jake Rudock day and Michigan wins and returns the jug to its rightly place.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 6

First Look: Minnesota

Monday, October 26th, 2015


Jerry Kill(GopherSports.com)

Michigan got a week to think about — or get over — one of the most heartbreaking losses in program history. When the Wolverines return to the field Saturday in Minneapolis, they still have the Big Ten title to play for, with a little help. It’s now a five game season and it begins with the Golden Gophers, a team that has underperformed this season after embarrassing Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2014.

Minnesota team stats & Michigan comparison
Minnesota | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 20.4 | 28.6 110 | 70
23.1 | 9.3 45 | 1
Rushing Yards 1,097 1,270 1,060 453
Rush Avg. Per Game 156.7 181.4 94 49
151.4 64.7 52 2
Avg. Per Rush 4.1 | 4.4
3.9 2.1
Passing Yards 1,360 1,303 1,241 1,021
Pass Avg. Per Game 194.3 186.1 95 98 177.3 145.9 18 4
Total Offense 2,457 2,573 2,301 1,474
Total Off Avg. Per Game 351.0 367.6 101 90 328.7 210.6 28 1
Kick Return Average 18.4 33.4 103 2 21.4 18.8 73 | 27
Punt Return Average 2.3 10.3 122 48 9.9 6.1 89 | 27
Avg. Time of Possession 30:06 | 34:05 63 | 5
29:54 | 25:55
3rd Down Conversion Pct 37.0% | 41.0% 89 | 58
36.0% | 20.0% 47 | 1
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 12-60 | 11-57
T51 | T39
10-53 | 18-135
T103 | 34
Touchdowns Scored 16 24
19 | 9
Field Goals-Attempts 10-13 | 10-12
10-13 | 1-4
Red Zone Scores (16-20) 80%|(24-25) 96% T93 | T4
(19-22) 86%|(7-8) 88% 87 T92
Red Zone Touchdowns (9-20) 45%|(17-25) 68% (12-22) 55%|(6-8) 75%

After setting high expectations with back to back 8-5 seasons in 2013 and ’14, Jerry Kill’s squad has been a letdown through the first seven weeks of 2015. It opened in promising fashion hard-fought six point loss to then-No. 2 TCU, but over the next six weeks, the Gophers have produced exactly one convincing win and that came by way of Big Ten doormat Purdue. A 23-20 overtime win over Colorado State, a 10-7 win over Kent State, and a 27-24 win over Ohio university don’t exactly look great on the resume even though they do go down in the ‘W’ column.

Minnesota was shut out 27-0 by Northwestern a week before Michigan turned around and spanked the Wildcats 38-0. In their last time out — Minnesota had a bye last weekend just like Michigan — the Gophers were dismantled by a 3-4 Nebraska squad, 48-25.

So what has gone wrong? Minnesota’s offense has struggled to move the ball and put up points against anybody not named Purdue. They’ve been shut out once, held to 17 points or fewer in three of seven games, and 27 or fewer in six. Their 20.4-point scoring average ranks 110th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten. Their total offense ranks 101st nationally and 10th in the Big Ten, ahead of Purdue, Penn State, and Northwestern. Northwestern’s offense is lower only because it has already faced Michigan’s defense.

Minnesota’s rushing offense ranks 94th nationally and ninth in the conference, but did get a spark from freshman Shannon Brooks with 17 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown against Purdue. But then again, it was Purdue. The passing offense ranks 95th nationally and 11th in the conference, one spot ahead of Michigan with about eight more passing yards per game.

Defensively, Minnesota is still pretty stout, ranking among the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in most categories, 28th nationally in total defense, and 18th in pass defense. It held TCU’s high powered offense to a season low 23 points — 22 fewer than the Horned Frogs’ next lowest point total of 45 against Iowa State last weekend. But on the other side of the coin, Minnesota allowed a Nebraska offense that averages 31.6 points per game to score a season high 48 two weeks ago.

Nebraska rushed for 203 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt, against the Gophers’ rush defense, which is where Michigan’s offense can take advantage. Minnesota ranks 52nd nationally and ninth in the Big Ten against the run.

Special teams could also play a big factor this Saturday, although hopefully not nearly as dramatically as it did last time out. Minnesota ranks 122nd nationally in punt returns, 103rd in kick returns, 89th in punt return defense, and 73rd in kick return defense. Michigan, on the other hand, ranks 48th in punt returns, second in kick returns, and 27th in both kick and punt return defense. The Wolverines have used special teams to make up for its work-in-progress offense by averaging good starting field position.

So what can we expect on Saturday night? A Minnesota student section full of costumes is a given, but aside from any Halloween trickery, Michigan should come home with win number six. The main question will be can Michigan’s defense start a new shutout streak?