ichigan defense gets job done against Gophers

by Michael Dougherty

Gophers coach Glen Mason said Michigan has won with defense all year. Of their three Big Ten wins on the road, the Wolverines’ 15 points was the team’s highest point total. Michigan beat Iowa 12-9 on Oct. 3 and two weeks ago slipped and slid its way to a 12-6 win in a driving rainstorm at Northwestern.
But while the Wolverines have been winning with defense, Minnesota continues to lose with its inconsistent offense.
The Minnesota offense had thrown for more than 220 yards in all four conference games this year, but in Saturday’s game the Michigan secondary caught half as many balls from Gophers quarterback Billy Cockerham as the Gophers receivers did.
Cockerham was 6-for-20 for 83 yards with three interceptions in the loss, and receiver Luke Leverson was limited to two catches for 15 yards.
Coming into the game, Leverson had caught 35 balls for 452 yards and five touchdowns in the four conference games. But his lack of involvement in the offense clearly hurt the Gophers’ passing game.
“They did a good job of doubling him up and getting underneath some of his routes,” Cockerham said of Leverson. “But he wasn’t complaining; he wasn’t going to force anything.”
Cockerham said Michigan played different defenses than he had seen on film. Cockerham, who has been criticized in the past for not staying in the pocket long enough, ran the ball 19 times for 50 yards. But Cockerham denied he was looking to run.
“When you go through your progressions and it’s not there and there is a big running lane — I mean, second and five is a lot better than second and 10,” he said.
The leading receiver for the Gophers was Antoine Henderson with only two receptions for 36 yards. Henderson said the lack of a passing game was frustrating for the receivers.
“I really don’t know what was going on back there,” he said. “We were open, but maybe Billy didn’t have enough time, so he was forced to scramble around.”
When asked if he thought the offense owed the defense an apology for their sub-par play, Cockerham said no.
“I don’t know too much about apologizing; they know we’re playing hard and we’re young,” he said. “We may be a little inconsistent, but we win as a team.”
Gophers linebacker Parc Williams said he agrees with Cockerham.
“Some days we’re not playing too well and the offense is doing good,” he said. “You can’t really blame the other side, you just have to do what you can.”
Pick it up, Poole
When Gophers defensive end Curtese Poole found himself alone with a loose ball at the Michigan 47-yard line, he said all he could think about was scoring.
But his fellow defensemen said they had different thoughts running through their heads.
“I was telling him to fall on it,” strong safety Tyrone Carter said. “Curtese is young and he gives everything and flies around the ball, so I was happy with that, but I just wasn’t too happy when he didn’t come up with that fumble recovery.”
Williams said the Gophers were one play away from winning the game and the fumble could have been it.
“That was a heartbreaker,” he said. “I thought he had the ball, and then it scooted away and he lost it. Boy, we could’ve used that one.”
Gophers cornerback Trevis Graham loves fourth down because it usually means he’s trying to block a punt.
Graham recovered the fumbled snap of Michigan punter Jason Vinson in the end zone for his second touchdown of the year.
“The ball was bouncing around everywhere and squeezing out of everyone’s hands,” Graham said. “I just happened to pounce on it at the right time and hold on because everyone was biting and scratching trying to get the ball.”
Graham also recovered a blocked punt by teammate Delvin Jones in the Gophers 41-14 win over Memphis on Sept. 19. And in the Gophers loss to Ohio State on Oct. 17, Graham blocked a punt that went out of the end zone for a safety.