Miscues, defensive inexperience costs Gophers in opener

In a game to claim the Little Brown Jug, Minnesota failed to stop Michigan’s rushing attack from start to finish.


Nur B. Adam

Gophers head coach PJ Fleck walks the sidelines at TCF Bank stadium on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Brendan O'Brien, Sports Reporter

After much anticipation for its delayed opening game, early miscues and defensive inexperience led to Minnesota losing 49-24 to Michigan.

The start of the game was anything but uneventful. The Gophers were able to steal momentum early with a blocked punt on the opening drive of the game and followed up with a three-play drive capped off by a touchdown pass from quarterback Tanner Morgan to tight end Ko Kieft.

What followed for the Wolverines were two significant scoring plays. First came a game-tying 70-yard touchdown run by Zach Charbonnet. Shortly after, Michigan linebacker Michael Barrett stripped Morgan of the football which landed into the hands of teammate Donovan Jeter for a defensive score to put the Wolverines up seven. By the end of the quarter Michigan held a 21-10 lead.

The Gophers and Wolverines opened up the second quarter with back-to-back lengthy scoring drives, but Michigan began to take control with a little over four minutes in the half. Before the half, Minnesota was in position to march down the field, wind the clock down and score heading into the locker room down one score.

Instead, the Gophers were stopped and elected to fake a punt and turned the ball over on downs deep in their own territory. Michigan capitalized with Hassan Haskins’ second touchdown up the middle to lead 35-17 at half.

While the Gophers immediately fought back with a touchdown drive to open up the third quarter, any thought of a comeback was quickly thwarted. Michigan answered on both sides of the ball with a touchdown on the following possession and a defensive stop on fourth and goal which essentially would seal the game.

“At the end of the day, we needed to take the adjustments we were given and execute at an elite level, and we just weren’t able to do that,” linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said.

Coming into his first career start, Michigan quarterback Joe Milton was somewhat of an unknown to the Gophers. Milton finished 15-22 for 225 yards with a passing and rushing touchdown, but the difference was the Wolverines’ rushing attack. The Joe Rossi-led Gophers defense allowed 253 yards on the ground.

“I think the biggest thing was our communication and everybody [not] doing their job,” Sori-Marin said of the defense.

Minnesota’s offense ultimately could not keep pace with Michigan. A bright spot for the Gophers was running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought they did really well,” Fleck said. “That’s a really good front… That defense is fast. I thought Mohamed having 140 yards, we need that. But we need to play action pass and protect more.”

Minnesota will head to Maryland next week as both teams will be looking for its first win of the season.