In the end, at least it was not 58-0 for the Little Brown Jug.
Michigan played without its star, Denard Robinson. The quarterback was ruled out just before kickoff with an undisclosed injury. It was time for the Gophers to take advantage.
Originally, they did.
The Minnesota defense allowed only nine total yards in the first quarter. The first play of the second quarter ended with a Gopher touchdown pass to John Rabe. After that, it was all downhill for the Gophers.
There was a lot of defensive miscommunication along with foolish penalties that killed rallies for Minnesota.
The talented squad of Wolverines proved it was the better team in the 35-13 victory Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Here are five observations from Saturday’s loss against Michigan:
The Gardner Did It
The Wolverines turned to junior Devin Gardner to lead the offense onto the field. The former quarterback transitioned to a wide receiver over the offseason and is leading the team in receiving touchdowns this season.
Gardner, a similar style quarterback to Robinson, played a great game. He was accurate all game long. He also used his legs to buy time in the pocket.
The amble time that the junior from Detroit bought proved huge as he was able to spot holes in the Gopher defense. He finished 12-for-18 for 234 yards.
In the second quarter, Gardner scrambled for over 10 seconds, and it led to a 45-yard touchdown catch by Drew Dileo.
The Gophers were aggressive on the defensive end in the first quarter. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys brought extra men to blitz and brought a lot of pressure on Gardner.
The most impressive of the bunch was Ra’Shede Hagemen. The hopeful NFL prospect come April plowed through two interior lineman for the beastly sack in the first quarter.
Minnesota tallied two more sacks in the first half, from Roland Johnson and James Manuel, but the Gophers played conservative the rest of the way.
Sticking with the run
This was a peculiar play-calling day from offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover.
The Gophers have a quarterback that can make plays with his arm as well as his legs. Yet, that’s not what happened on Saturday.
Sure, Philip Nelson struggled with his accuracy, but that was not the reason for the play calling. The Gophers ran on pass downs for most of the game, including late when the team needed to get back into the game.
Minnesota ran it 38 times compared to passing it 31 times.
The longest run all game for Minnesota was 12 yards on a Kirkwood rush late in the game.
Wide Receiver Congruency
Minnesota has shown that it has a lot of options at wide receiver. Yet, there might be too many options for the team to choose.
This is coming from a game that did not feature A.J. Barker, the Gophers top receiving option this season.
Coach Jerry Kill should start using specific wide receivers for the entirety of a drive instead of subbing each and every play. Nine players had catches in this game, and that did not include Barker, Andre McDonald, Devin Crawford-Tufts, Brandon Green, or Marcus Jones.
There is a lot of talent there, but honing that talent to only a few should be the next step.
Fourth Down Woes
There were a lot of things that went wrong on Saturday. A lot of that spelled from the interesting calls on fourth down.
The biggest mistake was going for it on fourth-and-17. The Gophers set up for a field goal, but faked it with a pass to Nelson. It went for five yards. Going for it there instead of a field goal did not make much sense.
Seventeen yards is a lot.
Field goals could have been made. Free points are something to take advantage of in a rivalry game.