As the Metrodome game clock ticked down to zero, and the few remaining fans awoke from their slumber, and the Michigan Wolverines triumphantly hoisted the Little Brown Jug above their heads — the answer to an ageless question became at least temporarily evident:
Quality is more desirable than quantity.
On Saturday, the Gophers football team put up some quantitative numbers, but there was no doubt that Michigan supplied the game’s quality. And in the end, there was no debate which was better. The Wolverines won in a blowout, 44-10.
“I was sick at our performance as players and as coaches,” said Gophers coach Jim Wacker, whose team lost its 11th straight Big Ten game. “I’ve got no answers. There’s a lot of things to be disappointed about in this game.”
In some regards, however, Minnesota stuck right with the Wolverines. The Gophers earned six more first downs than Michigan, ran 21 more plays, and held a six-minute advantage in time of possession. Yet none of that mattered.
The Gophers may have had more plays in their bag, but they weren’t goodies. If the teams were comparing Halloween treats, Minnesota would’ve had a rotten case of Cadbury Creme Eggs. The Wolverines: a handful of Godiva chocolates.
The loss, Minnesota’s 10-straight to Michigan, was the Gophers’ fourth in a row. It lowered the Gophers’ record to 3-4 overall (0-4 in the Big Ten), and it allowed Michigan to keep the historical jug trophy for yet another season.
Michigan (6-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten) took advantage of several Gophers defensive lapses, and ended up with seven plays of at least 25 yards. Minnesota’s offense had two of the same caliber.
“We ran good enough defensive plays and schemes to stop their plays,” Gophers safety Crawford Jordan said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot. It wasn’t that they made the spectacular plays that exploited our weaknesses — they threw into our strengths. We just weren’t there. We weren’t in the right positions at times when we should’ve been there.”
Examples of such plays came early and often, especially in the first half. The Gophers failed to score on their opening drive, despite reaching Michigan’s 19-yard line, and the Wolverines responded quickly.
Split end Tai Streets got behind Minnesota’s secondary for a 36-yard touchdown reception midway through the first quarter, and the rout was on. Tailback Chris Howard ran 86 yards on the opening play of the following drive for another quick score.
Sophomore tight end Jerame Tuman, in particular, gave Minnesota fits. Tuman was all alone on three plays and ended up with a team-leading 101 yards receiving.
“We didn’t really expect them to go to their tight end because they didn’t show that much in films,” safety Rishon Early said. “I guess that’s what we get for second-guessing ourselves. The coaches emphasize you have to cover your man.”
The Wolverines built up a 27-7 lead at halftime, and while Minnesota kept things respectable in the third quarter, it got ugly at the end.
When Michigan’s Woodrow Hankins intercepted Gophers quarterback Cory Sauter two minutes into the fourth quarter, the fans filled the aisles to head home. Only a fraction of the 41,246 fans stayed for the finish.
Those who did, saw the Gophers receive one last slap in the face. Up by 27 points with 30 seconds remaining, backup Michigan quarterback Brian Griese threw a 40-yard bomb into the endzone for a touchdown.
Minnesota’s players and coaches questioned the ethics of the call, but they had much more to be concerned about. After being blown out at home for the second straight week, the Gophers must now prepare for No. 2 Ohio State, where the outcome could be even worse.
“It’s tough,” receiver Ryan Thelwell said. “You work hard all week, everybody starts leaving, you hear a few boos here and there … it’s hard to go out. But you’ve just got to keep fighting. We can’t give up.”
GAME SUMMARYMichigan 14 13 0 17 — 44
Minnesota 0 7 3 0 — 10
First Quarter:Mich — Streets 36 pass from Dreisbach (Hamilton kick) 7:47
Mich — Howard 86 run (Hamilton kick) 3:13
Second Quarter:Minn — Evans 4 run (Bailey kick) 10:12
Mich — Williams 26 run (Hamilton kick)
Mich — Howard 9 run (kick failed) 1:41
Third Quarter:Minn — FG Bailey 49, 9:18
Fourth Quarter:Mich — Anes 1 run (Hamilton kick) 14:37
Mich — FG Hamilton 33, 8:57
Mich — Knight 40 pass from Griese (Hamilton kick) 0:30
A — 41,246
T — 3:03.
TEAM STATISTICSFirst downs: Mich 18, Minn 23. Rushing yards: Mich 252, Minn 76. Passing yards: Mich 237, Minn 283. Total yards: Mich 489, Minn 359. Fumbles lost: Mich 0, Minn 0. Possession time: Mich 26:25, Minn 33:35
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING — Michigan, Howard 12-127, Williams 15-83, Floyd 4-20, Gold 4-13, Anes 2-7, Dreisbach 2-2. Minnesota, Hamner 20-78, Evans 8-13, Jackson 3-10, Sauter 7-(-25).
PASSING — Michigan, Dreisbach 8-11-0, 184, Brady 2-3-0 13, Griese 1-1-0 40. Minnesota, Sauter 23-36-1 283, Cockerham 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING — Michigan, Tuman 3-101, Shea 2-13, Howard 1-12, Shaw 1-9, Knight 1-40, Streets 1-36, Campbell 1-27, Williams 1-(-1). Minnesota, Hamner 6-42, Atwell 5-57, Thelwell 5-106, Nelson 5-66, Hutton 2-12.