For the 100th time Michigan and Minnesota squared off and for the 73rd time Michigan emerged victorious, keeping the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor for another year. After a slow start that saw Michigan run just nine offensive plays in the first 21 minutes of the game, the Wolverines scored 28 points in the second half to pull away for a 42-13 win.
It was clear coming out of the bye week that Brady Hoke was determined to run the ball behind a shuffled offensive line, and after forcing a Minnesota fumble to open the game, Michigan did just that on its first possession. Six runs later, Fitzgerald Toussaint found the end zone to put Michigan on the board 7-0. Freshman Derrick Green got a pair of carries on the drive, taking one for 14 yards.
But Minnesota put together a 16-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 9:44 and tied the game at seven with a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Maxx Williams. The drive included five third-down conversions, three of which were quarterback runs.
|Net Rushing Yards||113||136|
|Net Passing Yards||235||145|
|Time of Possession||26:12||33:48|
|Third Down Conversions||10-of-13||8-of-15|
|Fourth Down Conversions||0-of-0||1-of-1|
|Red Zone Scores-Chances||5-of-5||2-of-2|
|Full Box Score|
When Michigan’s offense finally got the ball back, it went three-and-out and Minnesota made it to the Wolverine 45 before stalling and punting it back. The teams traded punts once again and with 2:35 remaining in the first half Michigan turned to the Devin and Devin show. First, Devin Gardner found Devin Funchess for 18 yards to the Minnesota 20. After a five-yard Gardner rush and a sack, Michigan faced 3rd-and-14 and Gardner connected with Funchess for a 24-yard touchdown. Michigan took a 14-7 lead into the half.
On the first possession of the second half, Michigan marched 75 yards in nine plays, culminating with a 2-yard Green touchdown run. The drive included a 22-yard completion to Jehu Chesson and a 21-yard completion to Funchess to set up the touchdown.
Minnesota answered with a field goal, but Michigan wasn’t finished. On the last possession of the third quarter, Michigan went 75 yards in eight plays for another touchdown. Toussaint carried it in from 12 yards out to put the Wolverines ahead 28-10.
Michigan’s offense scored one more touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to officially put the game away. Gardner scored from two yards out to cap off a nine play, 69-yard drive. Once again, the Devin to Devin connection came up big as Gardner found Funchess for gains of 22 and 46 on the drive.
In the closing minutes, Blake Countess picked off a Mitch Leidner pass and raced 72 yards for the final score of the day. It was his fourth interception of the season.
Michigan outgained Minnesota 348 yards to 281 and used only 17 pass attempts to do so. Gardner completed 13 of them for 235 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t make any mistakes, completing his first career start without an interception. Toussaint led the way on the ground with 17 carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Green was held to just 23 yards and a score on 10 carries. Funchess racked up 151 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
On a day when the story was supposed to be about the changes along the offensive line, the biggest story was on the changes at wideout. Funchess spent more time split wide as a receiver than at tight end, creating a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive backs. The emergence of Jake Butt and the return of AJ Williams from injury allows Hoke and Al Borges to do this, giving Gardner the downfield threat that he has lacked through the first third of the season.
Aside from one fumbled snap by Graham Glasgow, the offensive line was effective even though the numbers don’t really show it. Michigan had just 3.2 yards per carry, but it was by and large a conservative gameplan from the get-go. When the Wolverines needed to pick up yards on the ground, they did.
Minnesota’s high-powered running game gained just 136 yards on the ground on 3.3 yards per carry. The majority was gained by Leidner on quarterback keepers or designed runs. He gained 66 yards on 18 carries. The backs, Rodrick Williams Jr and David Cobb, who came in averaging a combined 121.8 yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry were held to just 55 yards and 3.7 yards per carry. Leidner, who started in place of Philip Nelson, completed 14-of-21 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, giving the Gophers their best passing game of the season to date.
After turning the ball over 12 times in the first four games, it was Michigan’s first turnover-free game of the season. The Wolverines also committed just two penalties and converted 10-of-13 third downs.
Although it took some time to get going, Michigan did just what it was supposed to do: earn a decisive victory by playing a solid, clean football game against an opponent better than Akron and UConn. And there’s no reason to believe this team won’t continue to improve as it works its way toward a brutal November slate.
The Wolverines travel to State College, Pa. for an evening game against Penn State (3-2, 0-1). Stay tuned for more analysis of today’s win and previews of the Nittany Lions.