The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Michigan Wolverines 30-14 to claim the Little Brown Jug trophy for the fourth time since 1968. The Wolverines entered the game as a heavy favorite, but the Gophers dominated the game.
The Gophers (4-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) scored 30 straight points to turn a seven-point deficit into a 23-point lead with less than 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines (2-3, 0-1) only lead of the game lasted just one series as the Gophers responded with a 10-yard touchdown run by Mitch Leidner on the ensuing drive.
The game was over when…Leidner lofted a pass to Maxx Williams in the end zone to give the Gophers a 20-point lead late in the third quarter. The Gophers were taking it to the Wolverines, but only had a 13-7 lead. The momentum was already in the Gophers favor, but a fumble by Wolverine quarterback Shane Morris and subsequent touchdown completely took the wind out of the stadium and Wolverine side line.
The game turned when…the Gophers marched 92 yards down the field to kick a field as time expired to end the first half. The Gophers appeared content to take a tie game into the second half, but tight end Lincoln Plsek made a leaping catch for 21 yards on third-down to keep the drive alive. Then David Cobb ran through defender after defender and Leidner completed two of three pass attempts to get the ball down to the Wolverine seven-yard line. The only thing that kept the Gophers out of the end zone was the clock.
The reason for optimism is…the passing offense showed some life and the defense is as good as any in the country. After attempting just seven passes and completing one the previous game with Chris Streveler at quarterback, the Gophers with Mitch Leidner at quarterback completed 14 of 22 pass attempts for 167 yards and a touchdown. The Gophers proved they can throw just enough to keep teams off balance. On the other side of the ball, the Gophers defense is outstanding. Their are not many better in the country. They are very good at each level, from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary.
The reason to worry is…the Gophers still haven’t beaten anybody. The Wolverines are a mess, Eastern Illinois is an FCS school and San Jose State is an average non-power five team. The Gophers’ best win this season may be against Middle Tennessee State, who are 3-2 with a blow out loss to Memphis. The Gophers schedule over the next three weeks does not have a signature win on it either with Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue. The games that really matter don’t happen until Iowa comes to town, and that does not look as difficult as it did before the season began.
The outlook is…encouraging. The Gophers should be 9-1 before finishing the season with Ohio State at home and Nebraska and Wisconsin on the road. Those may be the true tests to see where the Gopher program is at. But, beating the Wolverines is more about the Gophers exercising their own mental demons than winning on the field. The Gophers have not performed well against them, whether in Ann Arbor or Minneapolis. Getting that win could be the next hurdle in turning the program around for the Gophers.