Gophers to face Mich. in Big House

Minnesota is 24-69-3 against Michigan. The teams last played in 2008.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill greet each other on the field before kick off Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mark Vancleave

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill greet each other on the field before kick off Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Samuel Gordon

Head football coach Jerry Kill was released from the hospital Wednesday and returned to practice to help his team prepare for the Big Ten opener against No. 19 Michigan.

The Gophers will travel to the Big House on Saturday and, for the first time since 2008, the Little Brown Jug will be on the line.

The Gophers are a 20-point underdog and havenâÄôt held the trophy since 2005. The Wolverines lead the all-time series 69-24-3.

Reclaiming the Jug will likely mean doing something that no team has been able to do this season âÄî stop Denard Robinson. ItâÄôs no small task.

Robinson was second nationally in rushing yards among all positions a year ago and is fourth this year with 552 yards in four games.

HeâÄôs broken 100 yards in each of the past three games, and hit the 200-yard mark last week against San Diego State.

âÄúIf anybodyâÄôs watched film, heâÄôs made several people miss with one person on him, so the key will be that if we do miss him, we force him back to where we have help,âÄù defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.

 âÄúHeâÄôs a playmaker, heâÄôs an athletic player. WeâÄôve played playmakers before. We have a fast defense and weâÄôre going to rely on that,âÄù cornerback Brock Vereen said.

âÄúItâÄôll be a great test, and you want a test like this early on in the Big Ten.âÄù

While Robinson and the WolverinesâÄô run offense is one of the most potent in the nation, the pass attack is rather mediocre.

Robinson has eclipsed the 100-yard passing mark just one time this season, in a Sept. 10 victory over Notre Dame. HeâÄôs completing less than 50 percent of his throws, and has thrown as many interceptions âÄî six âÄî as touchdowns.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, whoâÄôs in his first year with the Wolverines, said that RobinsonâÄôs passing is a work in progress.

âÄúIâÄôve got to get him some better throws. IâÄôve got to put him in position to complete some more balls so he can gain some confidence and gain some rhythm,âÄù Hoke said.

âÄúHeâÄôs a capable passer, you know, but as a play caller you have to consider everything weâÄôre calling in terms of the passing game.âÄù

Little will change regarding MinnesotaâÄôs passing game. Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said MarQueis Gray will remain the teamâÄôs starting quarterback and Max Shortell will remain the back-up.

âÄúItâÄôs a learning process. WhatâÄôs happened is that there are some things that weâÄôve been able to learn about both guys,âÄù Limegrover said.

âÄú[Gray will start] until we feel like Max gets to a point where he does a significant number of things better than MarQueis. MarQueis is a special kid and there are things that he does that we really love about him.âÄù

Limegrover compared GrayâÄôs 2011 season to RobinsonâÄôs record-breaking 2010 campaign.

âÄúI think some of the things Denard Robinson did last year, even though he had a great year, I think thatâÄôs what MarQueis is learning and going through this year,âÄù Limegrover said. âÄúI think heâÄôs just maybe a year behind a guy like Denard Robinson from an experience standpoint.âÄù

Minnesota is on the heels of a disconcerting home loss against North Dakota State. However, Vereen said the team remains in good spirits.

âÄúThe disappointment might be high but the morale is also high,âÄù Vereen said. âÄúThe preseason is over; right now everybody in the Big Ten is 0-0. ItâÄôs a new week.âÄù