Michigan’s Football Wolverines suffered the humiliation of falling behind to the University of Minnesota?s lowly Gophers 3 to zip in the first quarter, of trailing 10 to zip in the second quarter, of barely scraping out a 13-10 lead at the half, of starting with less than glacial speed and almost putting the announced crowd of about 109,000 to sleep with first down runs to the left, only to later stun the crowd with a series of sparkling plays in the second half for a 34 to 10 victory.
Those pesky Minnesota rodents battled in earnest in their desperate attempt to right a wronged season. They did not quit even if they were finally out manned and overwhelmed, but their many freshmen played tough at least for a while.
Any win is a win and is good, especially in conference, even though in this one, in the first half, it was simply a stinker on the part of the Wolverine offense and, to a lesser degree, the Wolverine defense. Thirteen points in a half against statistically the worst defense in BCS (formerly D-1) ball is not particularly laudable. In fairness to Michigan’s defense it should be noted that the Gophers have demonstrated a proven ability to move the football this year.
Minnesota has fallen on exceptionally hard football times and the Wolverines should be able to demolish a team owning their statistics at the bottom of BCS play, even without the services of Chad Henne and Mike Hart. While eventually the Wolverines prevailed in somewhat expected style, they were not able to put the game away early, and again seemed to somewhat play down to the level of their competition.
In the absence of Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett drew the start at QB. And like the rest of the Wolverines he saved his best for last, after bobbled snaps, a fumble that led to Gopher points, after passes were batted down, after some poor throws were made and offensive false starts happened.
Ryan seems to be in the midst of some growing pains, but fortunately the situation is perfect for him to learn and put mistakes behind him with the least damage to his team. His arm appears to be as good as advertised, perhaps better. His 40-yard, late in the game, TD pass to Mario Manningham in the south endzone was perfect, allowing Mario to catch it in stride. That, and others like his strikes to Adrain Arrington, are all proof that the talent and a better than average football future is his to reap.
Just like premium cheese, he needs to be aged, but the level he attains will not just be dependent on his abundant physical skills but on maturation and the growth of football wisdom. I wonder if the cooler temperatures Saturday bothered him. In Texas, this kind of temperature would be a ?Blue Norther?.
Ryan was 11/20 for 233 yards. He got better as the game went on, and he will get better as his career goes on. Next year is sure to be both challenging and interest for him and us.
In the absence of Mike Hart, Carlos Brown started but soon fumbled an opportunity away. Brandon Minor replaced him at TB after the fumble. Minor had 21 carries for 157 yards and a TD. Fortunately, Carlos got another chance and redeemed his day with an 85-yard TD sprint from scrimmage into the south endzone, and finished with a solid 132 yards for a total of two TDs ont he day.
That long TD run was a masterpiece, a spectacular run that showcased Brown?s outstanding speed, and it was his second of the day. He ran away from everyone. He had done the same thing in a spring practice, so in that sense it was not surprise.
Mario Manningham has to be considered the player of the game. He snared 5 passes for a career high 162 yards, and had key catches in scoring drives, and a spectacular TD catch.
How It Unfolded:
The Wolverines all but ceded the first quarter to the Gophers. Carlos Brown fumbled and they got a 29-yard FG. M looked flatter than yesterday?s beer on a platter. This yawner of a quarter ended W-0, G-3.
Things picked up some in the second as Ryan Mallett donated the football to the Gophers and they decided to carry it across M?s goal line. W-0, G-10. Unthinkable. Unbelievable. Actual. More Appalachian State?
The Wolerines ran left on many first downs, but threw Junior Hemmingway into the fray as a running back, taking a direct snap, with Mallett spread far left, for a harmless trick play that netted three yards. Finally they shook off some lethargy, and moved for a 42-yard Lopata FG after a 10-play, 54-yard drive. W-3, G-10.
Then they did it again, this time on a 26-yard Lopata FG enabled by a Mario Manningham reception for 39 yards in a 7 play, 53-yard drive. W-6, G-10.
Mario struck again with a neat 24-yard TD catch, and with a Gopher pass interference call, Brandon Minor ended the drive by scoring on a two-yard run. It was W-13, G-10, and a poor half of Michigan football was complete. Offensively, it was a performance as grey and misty as the day. Henne and Hart missing should not be the crutch used to support that first half. The defense, while not perfect, played better than the offense.
Fortunately, Zoltan Mesko continued his great punting. Unfortunately, we could never collar the ball before it bounced into the endzone. What happened to the punting team trying to catch it near the goal line? It appeared we had the opportunity with people down there a couple of times, but they could not locate the ball.
Carlos Brown had a nice 27-yard return to start the second half, but they stalled and punted.
Well into the third quarter the Mallett to Manningham connection struck again on a 48-yarder to set up a Carlos Brown TD run of 5-yards. Great throw and catch. M-20, G-10 after a 5-play 75-yard drive.
The Blue struck again early in the fourth, on a picture perfect pass and catch resulting in a 6 play, 68-yard drive, which ended with Mario?s remarkable 40-yard TD reception. Perfect throw, perfect catch, and Mario grabbed it on a dead run. W-27, G-10.
Carlos Brown than made as good a long TD run as I have ever seen, hauling it 85-yards to pay dirt. Final W-34, G-10.
For a long time this game was not as lop sided as the final score and statistics indicated. Michigan? own lack of contain, fumbles and missed tackles, and some mind numbing play calling, helped the Gophers hang around far too long.
Michigan ended up with 307-yards rushing on 40 carries and 254-yard passing on 21 attempts, so eventually they dominated statistically and on the scoreboard. Ryan Mallett made some mistakes, but engineered some nice drive too.
The Gophers did manage to run the ball for 132-yards on the Wolverines. Next week the Spartans will want to triple that. In view of the Gopher?s past performances this year that is a lot, but overall this was a great win, and the Jug gets to remain with its rightful owners for another year.
Now the Wolverines have to slice into the toughest meat of their Big Ten season. Each of the three remaining games means everything to their hopes, and each will be difficult. Michigan State lost to Iowa Saturday, but don?t let that settle you into a comfort zone. The Michigan game is always their season and a win would help D?Antonio to settle into a comfort zone never enjoyed by Williams and Smith. Spartan Stadium will be wild with excitement. They have been focused on the Wolverines for a long time.
With Henne and Hart back the Wolverines have the talent to win. The question will simply be how much do the Wolverines want it? It will likely be a brawl, a physical battle.
It will be televised on the inconvenience that is known as the Big Ten Network so my greedy cable company will not carry it. Should I go to a bar here in the Lansing area and put up with all that crap they spew? Better to get a tape from a friend and watch right after, so hopefully I can get something posted.
Correction: Late word is that ABC has exercised its option and picked up UM/MSU so the game WILL be available for those of us with non-participating cable providers.
Enjoy the game, thanks for reading this far and ?