Michigan devours Gophers
Published 8:08 pm Sunday, October 2, 2011
ANN ARBOR — The Little Brown Jug was consumed by the University of Michigan football squad as it swallowed Minnesota 58-0 in the Big 10 Conference opener for both teams Saturday before 111,106 spectators in the The Big House.
Michigan (5-0, 1-0) started early and scored often, while Minnesota (1-4, 0-1) went into a hole as the Gophers were blanked for the first time since 1976 by the Wolverines. The 58-point margin was the largest margin of victory in the 92 game series between the two schools, and it was the first shutout by a Michigan defense since 2007, which was against Notre Dame in a 38-0 display that held the Irish to a meager 79 total yards.
A trifecta was accomplished by junior Vincent Smith as the 5-6, 172 scatback ran, received and then threw a touchdown pass in the first 21 minutes to propel the victors into a 28-0 margin.
“I was put in the right place at the right time, but it was really fun since it was high school I threw my last pass,” said Smith.
Junior quarterback Denard Robinson was not to be out-staged, though, as he connected on his first 11 pass attempts for Michigan and ended the first half with an 18-yard touchdown to senior tight end Kevin Koger 45 seconds before intermission for a 38-0 lead. He was 13-of-16 for 153 yards passing, and his specialty of running with the football was limited to six carries for 51 markers with one touchdown.
“We love doing new stuff, I just want to go out there and have fun with my teammates,” said Robinson. “Devin (Gardner) is a great quarterback with a strong arm and is always going to compete.”
Gardner was more of a spectator himself in the first four games, but the red-shirt freshman came in on the second play of the game with Robinson part of a 3-back wishbone-type offense, to the thrill of the fans.
“Denard (Robinson) worked hard all week as he always does and did a nice job throwing the football, because if we have success in passing, our run game will open up even more,” said Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. “The lines got off to a good start by protecting Denard and the defensive front responded well.”
Sophomore starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was the weapon for Michigan in the third quarter as the Wolverine rushed for 60 yards and reached pay dirt once as he topped the century mark for the first time to finish with 108 yards on 11 carries. Michigan scored 10 points in each quarter of the second half with the last touchdown coming on a 83-yard fumble return by sophomore Courtney Avery with just under five minutes left on the scoreboard.
Freshman running back Thomas Rawls showed the faithful of his potential in the final stanza with 73 markers on 10 totes.
“They (Michigan) are a bigger, stronger and faster football team right now than we are, so we just have to continue to work,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. “Brady (Hoke) is a first-class guy and handles the team in a first-class way which we hopefully are in the process of doing so we can compete in the Big 10, because we haven’t so far.”
Threes were not only the lucky charm for Smith and Robinson, but beleaguered sophomore place kicker Brendan Gibbons sent the trio of field goals through the uprights that he tried and was successful on all seven of his extra points.
One of the few disappointments for the Wolverines was the perfection of 21 trips to the red zone being blemished by Gardner taking a knee on the final play from the 15-yard line.
Michigan outgained the Gophers by a 580-177 margin and rushed for 363 yards, which was the first time since 1987 the Wolverines have broken the 300 barrier in three consecutive weeks. Minnesota had eight first downs to 32 for the hosts.
“I thought it was good to get a lot of different guys in,” said Hoke.