Henne wins young QB duel

by Dan Miller

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – As time was running out in the first half, Michigan quarterback Chad Henne was confusedly communicating with his coaches.

As time was running out in the second half, the freshman was calmly crafting a game-winning scoring drive.

After overcoming some confusion and rookie mistakes Saturday, Henne took the Little Brown Jug from the Gophers’ Bryan Cupito in the battle of new quarterbacks.

Henne completed 33 of 49 passes for 328 yards, setting Michigan’s freshman record in each category. His 33 completions rank second among freshmen in school history.

“He’s a freshman, and it looked like they wanted to get him a lot of reps,” Gophers cornerback Ukee Dozier said.

The 111,518 in attendance gave Henne some flack after he threw two interceptions in the third quarter. But scattered boos turned into collective cheers when Henne methodically drove the Wolverines to a fourth quarter come-from-behind win.

Down four with 3:04 remaining, Henne went 6-for-6 on the 87-yard drive, which ended with Henne finding Tyler Ecker for a 31-yard touchdown.

Henne said Ecker was the third option on the touchdown play, and he passed up two routes before finding the tight end wide open near the left sideline.

In comparison, Cupito appeared to never leave his first receiving option during the game.

After the game, Cupito was critical of himself. He said that several times he overthrew his receivers and put much of the weight of the loss on his own shoulders.

“The coaches gave me chances to make plays with the long passes, but I missed them,” he said. “Ernie (Wheelwright) had his guy beat by seven yards and I overthrew him. And Jared (Ellerson) did that a couple times. That was the stuff that killed us.”

Cupito went 8-of-22 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, but when Michigan made the Gophers’ running game disappear in the second half, Cupito didn’t pick up the slack.

Late in the game, it looked as if he was going to be given a chance to redeem himself.

Up by four points with less than five minutes to play, Cupito hit Wheelwright on third-and-15 for 34 yards, putting the Gophers in Michigan territory.

But three straight run calls that resulted in minus-five yards snuffed the quarterback’s effort.

Then Henne stole the show with his late heroics, putting together a drive Michigan coach Lloyd Carr called “a thing of beauty.”

“Everybody’s thinking you’re a freshman, but you have to show that you’re the starter right now and show some maturity,” Henne said.

Henne, who had his second straight 300-yard passing game Saturday, started the season as the backup but is now becoming a golden boy in maize-and-blue country.

“If you didn’t know he was a freshman, you wouldn’t know he’s a freshman,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “He’s got a good supporting cast, which helps. And he’s getting better every week.”