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Minnesota Football vs. Michigan: The Elite, The Meh & The Ugly

Humiliated at home

Michigan v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-3) were humiliated at home by the No. 2-ranked Michigan Wolverines (6-0) in a 52-10 blowout in the latest battle for the Little Brown Jug.

The Elite

Dragan Kesich’s 54-yard field goal. Trailing 10-0 in the final minutes of the first quarter, the Gophers got on the board with a 54-yard field goal courtesy of Dragan Kesich. Not only was it a career-long for the kicker, but it was the longest field goal in the history of Huntington Bank Stadium and tied for the fifth-longest in program history.

Daniel Jackson’s 35-yard touchdown reception. First, let me be clear: P.J. Fleck’s clock management before halftime was not elite, in my opinion. Trailing 24-3 and facing 4th & 2 at the Michigan 40-yard line, he opted to let the clock run down to 0:22 before calling his final timeout. In his postgame press conference, Fleck made clear he was hedging his bets. In the event that his team failed to convert on fourth down, he did not want to give the ball back to Michigan with a minute left on the clock and two timeouts. But that also meant giving his own team less time to score a touchdown if they converted on fourth down. It ultimately didn’t matter, as Bryce Williams picked up the first down before Athan Kaliakmanis connected with Daniel Jackson for a 35-yard touchdown, but I’m not sure the result justifies the process.

The Meh

Mark Crawford. For once, I felt the punting was better than mediocre. Crawford punted seven times for an average of 44 yards per punt, including a 52-yarder when Minnesota was backed up at their own 10-yard line early in the second quarter.

The Ugly

Where do I even start?

  • 52 points is the most surrendered at home by the Gophers since a 52-10 loss to No. 10-ranked Ohio State in 2010, when Tim Brewster was head coach.
  • I suppose it is worth pointing out that 14 of those points came courtesy of interceptions returned for touchdowns. The first pick six came on the second play of the game.
  • Aside from the touchdown pass before halftime, Kaliakmanis had another game to forget, finishing 5-of-15 for 52 passing yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
  • The Minnesota offensive line was completely overmatched against the Wolverines’ defensive front, giving up two sacks and seven tackles for loss.
  • The Gopher defensive line was a non-factor. They were never apply any pressure to quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who completed 70% of his passes and threw for a touchdown to go along with a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
  • The Minnesota defense allowed eight different completions of 15 or more yards, three runs of 15 or more yards and six total plays of 20 yards or more.
  • Linebacker Maverick Baranowski is only playing because Cody Lindenberg has missed six games now with a hamstring injury, but the redshirt freshman’s trial by fire has come at a great cost to the defense due to him being out of position and missing tackles.
  • The Wolverines’ second-string offense led an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive against the Gophers’ first-team defense to open the fourth quarter.

But I think what was most depressing was how Minnesota didn’t seem to belong on the same field as Michigan. Make no mistake, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country this season. But we’re in Year 7 of the Fleck era and the talent gap between this program and the top tier of the Big Ten seems as wide as ever. Then consider that next year the Gophers will have to compete with USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington, three of whom are currently ranking in the Top 10. This program seems destined to a future of irrelevancy at this point, which is only going to make the wasted opportunities of the last seven years sting even more.