With Denard Robinson sidelined, Devin Gardner led the Michigan offense to their biggest passing day of the season and a 35-13 win over the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota actually had opportunities to make this a game but their inability to convert short-yardage situations, some critical breakdowns in the secondary and a few very questionable calls by the coaching staff led to a Michigan win that was not in doubt for the final quarter.
The Gophers really dominated the first quarter that was played almost entirely on the Michigan side of the 50. Minnesota had an 83 to 9 yard advantage but couldn't put points on the board until they scored a touchdown on a 10-yard throwback to tight end John Rabe on the first play of the second quarter. 7-0 Minnesota at that point, Michigan was not playing well and things were looking up for Gopher fans.
Michigan eventually scored on a flukey play to tie it up. Devin Gardner rolled to his right on 3rd and 17 from the Gopher 45. The Gopher secondary had everything well covered so Gardner ran back to his left and bought enough time for Drew Dileo to sneak down the left sideline WIDE OPEN. Gardner threw it up to Dileo who caught his first touchdown of the season. Breakdown in coverage but hey it was just 7-7 and the Gopher defense had played outstanding for the 22:10 prior to that play.
A Gopher three-and-out was followed by a long Michigan drive of 13 plays for 90 yards resulting in a touchdown before halftime after a questionable pass interference call on Martez Shabazz. But again, the Gopher defense made Michigan work for that touchdown and it would have been just a field goal if it weren't for those damn refs. 14-7 at halftime isn't such a bad thing, right?
Wrong, the second quarter was when Michigan regained their confidence and they continued to move the ball and score points in the third and fourth quarters. But even with their 389 total yards and 35 points, the Gophers had chances to score points of their own and blew a few key opportunities.
Only down 14-7 in the third quarter Philip Nelson led a Gopher drive to the Michigan 13. A touchdown here and Minnesota is right back in this game. Rush for a loss, rush for a loss and an incomplete pass resulted in 4th and 16 from the Michigan 19. A 37-yard field goal would make it 14-10. Instead Coach Kill called a fake FG that gained 5 yards and Michigan got the ball with no points given up. Crucial error in judgement. 86 yards later Michigan was up 21-7 and this game was getting out of hand.
Even still, the Gophers had more opportunities. Two separate Gopher drives in the fourth quarter had them with 1st and Goal from the 3. That is three tries to get three yards. Both times resulted in field goals costing the Gophers what should have been eight more points. Two opportunities to get to within a touchdown and both were failures from inside the 3 yard line.
This game, in my opinion, was the worst coaching performance by Kill and company. Game plan was solid and you cant' fault him for execution issues. But repeated failures on key short-yardage situations and an abysmal fake field goal call cost the Gophers a chance for this to be a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter. To add to the coaching blunders the secondary quit playing after the first quarter.
I'll save some of my perspective for Monday but the story of the season is improvement. The Gopher margin of loss improved by 36 points. Sure some of that was due to Robinson not playing but I guarantee you Jeffrick won't be writing about the University shutting down the football program (which led to me getting a call from the Athletic Communications Dept because the University was getting calls asking if it were true from alumni and recruits...true story). This defense played better, the offense had opportunities for more points and Gopher football is getting better.