Michigan routs Nebraska
ANN ARBOR – Bo returned to Michigan Stadium on Saturday, but Wolverine football coach Brady Hoke would not let Nebraska’s Pelini have the same success as his legendary predecessor with a 45-17 thumping in a contest of similar record Big Ten Conference squads.
“As a team as a whole this is our best game of the year, but we still have areas to improve,” Hoke said.
Each team had three offensive plays on their initial possession before punting and then junior quarterback Denard Robinson took eight plays to cover 79 yards for the first touchdown as he passed to sophomore Jeremy Gallon for the final six for the score.
Sophomore Brendan Gibbons scored the next four points to give Michigan (9-2, 5-2) a 10-0 advantage with the point after and then a career long 42-yard field goal with just over two minutes left to play in the first quarter. Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) scored a touchdown with 1:17 left in the opening stanza as senior Brandon Kinnie crossed the goal line successfully for the first time this year as he ran past a couple defenders with a 54-yard aerial from sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Answering the challenge of Gibbons was Cornhusker junior Brett Maher, who knotted the score at 10 points apiece with a career long 51-yard kick between the uprights with 12:12 left before intermission.
Robinson manufactured a dozen play drive covering 74 yards and maneuvered the last 14 yards up the middle between Huskers with just over six minutes to play before the bands took the field and the score increased to 17-10 with the kick from Gibbons.
The Wolverines had almost twice the yardage (230-125) at halftime with Robinson achieving 75 yards rushing and 98 through the air on six completions. The touchdown pass was the only offensive play of note for Nebraska in the first half as the next longest plays from scrimmage covered 40 yards on consecutive runs late in the second stanza.
“Our mindset on defense has changed a total 360 and this senior group from day one were going to buy in for coach Hoke and his staff,” senior captain defensive tackle Mike Martin said. “This season is far from over, we have a lot of work left to put in and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Nebraska fumbled the second half kick-off and then committed an interference penalty in the end zone a short time later to allow the Wolverines to increase the advantage to 24-0 after another touchdown by Robinson and boot by Gibbons.
On the next Michigan drive, another 3:29 went off the clock to duplicate the previous score as another penalty (personal foul) helped lead the march from midfield as sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint scored after a successful fake field goal put the ball one yard from the goal line.
“We can’t play on the road and expect to win with all the penalties and turnovers that we preach not to do,” proclaimed Pelini. “We took ourselves out of drives, so it was not a good day for us on offense.”
Nebraska narrowed the deficit to 31-17 just before the end of the third quarter on a well designed option play with the two running backs finishing the play with a lateral.
Robinson answered the score with his best drive of the year covering 86 yards on ten plays capped off by a nicely thrown pass to the back of the end zone to senior Martavious Odoms from 38 yards away.
“It is great when special teams contribute like they did and the defense caused three-and-outs, which got us right back in the game,” senior offensive tackle Mark Huyge said. “The emphasis was to get better every week and improvement was the key to play better football in November when all the teams we play are good.”
The Cornhuskers fumbled the next kick-off after the Odoms score, but Gibbons barely missed on his second 42-yard field goal attempt and three plays later Martinez fumbled for another turnover.
Toussaint wasted no time by scampering 31 yards on the ensuing run to finish the scoring after the successful point after. That was his 29th carry of the game, which is his career high with 138 yards to his credit.
“The guys up front are executing and handling their business better every week,” Toussaint said.
Martinez moved the ball against the reserves on the last drive of the game, but after reaching the eight yard line, his next four passes were incomplete.
“We talked about playing with great toughness and two fumbles on kick-off returns really helps your momentum as a team,” Hoke said. “The front seven on defense did a good job of getting off blocks and the four guys in the secondary did a good job playing the pass as everyone played hard.”
Michigan clearly won the possession (41:13-18:39) battle and had 24 first downs compared to 11 for Nebraska, with the Wolverines out gaining the newest conference member by a 418-260 margin.
Senior Lavonte David was one Nebraska player worth a mention with his 17 tackle performance with 14 being of the solo category from his linebacker position.