The Michigan Football Wolverines rescued the Little Brown Jug from the inhospitable Gophers that had held it hostage for a year, and avenged last year?s disturbing loss to the Gophers, with their 28-14 whipping of the the University of Minnesota?s determined football team at the Metrodome in Minneapolis/St. Paul Saturday Night.
In my opinion, it was one of the finest Chad Henne performances that I have been privileged to observe. He was extremely poised, showed some mobility and escapability. And was on target for most, if not all of his passes. He tossed twenty-four passes, and completed seventeenfor two hundred eighty-two yards and three TDs. He hit his receivers downfield in stride. With a few exceptions, his offensive line usually gave him time. He threw no interceptions, and Michigan did not lose a fumble due to the athletic ability of Steve Breaston who gathered up a Kevin Grady miscue and advanced it. Chad?s three TD passes were in the first half. Two were tossed to fast developing WR Adrian Arrington, and one to Super Mario.
Adrian caught three passes for fifty-nine yards, for a 19.7 average and two TDs. Mario caught a couple of great 1st down passes in the second half, but dropped one catch able pass. Still he again had a great game by snagging five passes for one hundred thirty-one yards for an eye-popping 26.2-yard average per catch and 1 TD. The offense was without the services of Tyler Ecker for most of the game due to a sore ankle, and understudy Carson Butler is evidently in Carr?s doghouse. Mike Massey got some valuable experience and made a few catches, and Brian Thompson saw action.
The offense generally held up its side of the bargain in this game, using a blend of running and play action, and down the field passes to gather a substantial first half lead. Mike Hart made some outstanding runs, and late in the game sprinted fifty-four yards into Gopher territory to help seal the win. Hart is a Houdini in traffic, seeming to be tackled and going down two or three yards past the point of contact, slipping out of the pile. He is also attached to the football in the wildest melee.
Steve Breaston had some nice catches, snaring five for forty-eight yards.
As for his punt return work, it is a little perplexing that this far into the season the opposing team?s gunners are allowed to close on Steve in the manner they have. He had a two and one half yard return average on punts. For a man of his demonstrated abilities, it seems to me Michigan is not setting up the situation to afford him success although every team works very hard to prevent that success.
Also on special teams, Garrett Rivas missed a relatively easy second half field goal that could have helped seal the victory. Zoltan Mesko the punted well and on one occasion bounced a punt at the one that Steve Brown was waiting for and leaning into the endzone, caught. While it was ruled a touch back it was an extraordinary effort by Brown.
The kick offs were unexceptional, mostly short, and one was out of bounds. I wonder if special teams coaching by committee works that well. Special teams are about the only area of coaching concern to be considered regarding this game. Well, maybe the flagging intensity of the defense in the last eight minutes of the game is a bit of a concern, too. For a short while, it seemed almost a reversion to last year?s defensive form, but the defense was outstanding for most of the game. When the camera shows Coach English it is apparent that he never loses his intensity.
While the defense was very effective at times, and held the Gophers for many series, they did give up a pair of TD passes. It was a game a little out of this year?s pattern where the defense carries the offense. Saturday they seemed about equal with the offense perhaps a bit better. The offense managed to possess the ball for a good part of the game.
Later in the game Minnesota?s QB Cupito fired quickly, and hit receivers seemingly at will to the narrow the gap from 28-7 to 28-14. The alarm claxons began to sound for most fans. When the Gophers successfully crafted an onside kick recovery it began to seem that despite all of Michigan?s efforts and fine plays, and positive time of possession, a TD, another onside kick and TD could bring misery. But Minnesota drew a critical penalty, and dropped some passes and another score did not materialize for them, as they failed in four shots inside the Wolverine ten.
CB Charles Stewart had a rough outing, drawing a critical interference penalty, missing a tackle, and getting burned a couple of times for both Gopher TDs. I think that in run support he is better than Morgan Trent, and therefore played a lot. He also gained a lot of experience in this game, not all of it positive, and perhaps learned some lessons. He is talented and will improve with seasoning and he had a dose of that Saturday night.
Michigan received the opening KO and gave the ball to Mike Hart. Mike ran for a couple of first downs in his first two carries, Steve Breaston caught a seventeen?yard pass and the Wolverines were moving. Adrain Arrington caught his first TD pass as a Wolverine, on a beautiful pass and catch for sixteen yards and six. Both sides converted all their EP?s on the day. Wolverines 7, Gophers 0. And that was it for the first quarter.
Adrian decided that one TD was nice, but two would be better so he caught an even more impressive one of thirty-seven yards early in the second quarter. These two drives are among Michigan?s most impressive drives of the season, the first consisting of ten plays for eighty yards and the second a seven play seventy-seven yard drive. W 14, G 0.
The Gophers did not crawl back into their holes, but displayed an annoying tendency to fight back by producing a twelve-play seventy-five yard drive of their own which resulted in a TD after a review overturned the call on the field due to ?indisputable evidence?. Nice Gopher pass and outstanding catch. W 14, G 7.
Mario Manningham again contributed by making a 41-yard TD reception to complete an eight- play eighty-two yard drive, which was every bit as effective and welcome as the first two. Manningham makes it look so easy. W 21, G 7 as the first half ended.
The winning margin was already on the board at the half, and the fact that the Wolverines were able to sustain three long drives is reassuring for the future and confirms that the offense is developing.
The halftime adjustments of the Gophers increased their defensive effectiveness in the third quarter. Both teams were scoreless.
Kevin Grady finally bulled in on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the game out of the clawing Gopher?s reach after a five play forty-yard drive. W 28, G 7.
The Gophers spent the remainder of the game trying to catch up, managed a final TD, and certainly did not quit the struggle at any time, sustaining a five play, eighty-four yard drive. Another nice pass and catch against a slightly more passive Wolverine defense, and it was W 28, G 14 as time expired.
This is a satisfying victory for Wolverine fans as the Gophers attempt to plant their flag on our field after their surprising win in the Big House last year was disrespectful. The jug is back where it belongs, where it is supposed to be. Michigan?s defense is solid and the offense seems to be maturing in the right way. They have five wins and no losses. A lot is right in the Wolverine?s football world.
But waiting in the wings, to spoil our fun, and with more humility than is their usual characteristic, are the Michigan State Spartans of John L. Smith. This next game is one born of desperation for the Spartans. Their backs are to the wall. Smith will conjure up at least one trick play to fool the Wolverines.
Notre Dame stole a victory and the Fighting Illini flat out humiliated them at the Spartans own homecoming Saturday. Coach Smith as a Coach appears to have huge emotional ups and downs. He will have his charges fired up. The Michigan game is their season every year. but that is especially true this year as Coach Smith can see some Bobby Williams writing on the wall.
The health of MSU?s Drew Stanton who left Saturday?s game late perhaps with injured ribs, not to return with the game in the balance, will be a subject of speculation all week, but you can bet that he will be there raring to go, raring to perform well in his last shot at the Wolverines..
Michigan must be ready for the Spartan?s best shot. It may be necessary for Mr. Woodley to renew his acquaintance with Mr. Stanton. Football is a game of emotion so on a given Saturday any team?… Sorry Spartans, not this time. Go Blue!