Manningham slices up young secondary

by Nick Gerhardt

;ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Freshmen tend to learn a lot their first year, and Minnesota’s secondary has proven no different, learning some tough lessons Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Coach Tim Brewster decided to start three true freshmen in the secondary against No. 19 Michigan and their inexperience showed.

Player of the Game

Mario Manningham No. 86 Michigan junior wide receiver
• The speedy wide out single-handedly broke down the Gophers’ youthful secondary, hauling in five receptions on the day for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown. Manningham’s catches of 44 and 48 yards certainly fall in Brewster’s category of explosive plays.

The Wolverines’ receiving tandem of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington taught freshmen cornerbacks Ryan Collado and Kyle Theret lessons all afternoon as the two combined for 233 receiving yards.

“Those young freshmen that played for us today got a whole lot of life lessons. Ryan Collado is going up against Manningham, who’s one of the best wide receivers in America and he’s fighting and competing,” Brewster said. “Manningham won a couple of times, but that’s going to happen.”

Quote of the Game

“We came in here with the full intention of winning this football game. Our football team today was convinced that we were going to come in here with everything we had and win. It’s disappointing to lose and the way the score ended up, but we’re going to be a great football program again at the University of Minnesota.” -coach Tim Brewster

Manningham won more than a couple of times, as he caught only five balls on the day and each catch kept drives alive for Michigan and led to scores.

Four of Manningham’s receptions went for over 18 yards.

“The explosive plays, they are what determines wins and losses. Passes over 18 and runs over 12 and we’re still giving up too many explosive plays to go win a game like this,” Brewster said.

Manningham allowed freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett to air it out as he simply outran defenders to the ball exactly when Michigan needed him.

Facing third and seven from their own 41-yard line in the second quarter with Minnesota leading 10-3, Manningham blew past the Gophers’ defense and hauled in a pass from Mallett for a 44-yard gain to put the Wolverines at the Minnesota 15-yard line. That led to a Michigan field goal that drew the game to 10-6.

Defining Moment

After a 24-yard pass reception by Manningham to the Minnesota 5-yard line, the Wolverines followed with a false start penalty, an incomplete pass and a short pass to bring up a third-and-goal attempt. Freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett threw what looked to be an incomplete pass, but it was called a pass interference on true freshman safety Curtis Thomas, which led to a first down. Instead of a fourth-down field goal attempt, the Wolverines took the ball into the end zone on the next play to take their first lead of the game that they would never relinquish.

On the next Wolverine possession Manningham struck on a pivotal third and six and gained 24 yards on a reception that brought Michigan to the Gophers’ 5-yard line. Five plays later sophomore running back Brandon Minor scored from two yards out to grab a 13-10 lead after Manningham drew a pass interference call that set up a first and goal from the 2-yard line.

At halftime Arrington and Manningham had combined for 135 yards receiving.

The Wolverines-run game kept them moving the ball consistently as they gained 338 yards on the ground, but whenever they needed a big play for first down yardage they called upon Manningham.

In the third quarter Manningham used his speed and talent once again as he accelerated past Collado on a third and six at the Michigan 29-yard line to grab a 48-yard pass from Mallett for a first down. Wolverines’ sophomore running back Carlos Brown punched it in from the 5-yard line for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead to finish the drive.

In the fourth quarter Manningham caught his final ball of the day when he reeled in a 40-yard pass from Mallett down the near sideline for a touchdown to bring the game to 27-10, essentially closing the book on the Gophers.

While Manningham exploited the young secondary, Arrington did not catch a ball in the second half after sparkling in the first half.

Arrington, a senior, caught four passes in the first half for 61 yards. Two of his catches went down as “explosive” catches.

For these freshmen, learning on the job has proven difficult in a conference like the Big Ten.

“It’s the Big Ten and we play top receivers week in and week out. Today we played against one heck of a receiver in Mario Manningham,” senior strong safety Dominique Barber said.

In the end Michigan needed only the nine catches from Arrington and Manningham but the offense mostly relied on their big gain catches.

“Mannningham’s a great athlete and he caught some deep balls,” junior linebacker Deon Hightower said. “I think Collado played great.”

While the lessons for the young secondary were tough when playing against the Wolverines, Brewster feels it will only help them in the end.

“They’re going to learn from those lessons and they’re going to be better from it. I couldn’t be more proud of those kids.”