Minnesota (4-1) at (19) Michigan (4-0)
Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Fresh off their first loss of the season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to make amends as they take on the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Big Ten Conference action on the road this Saturday.
Coach Jerry Kill's Gophers dropped a 23-7 decision at home to Big Ten rival Iowa last weekend, putting an end to the team's four-game, season-opening win streak. Minnesota averaged 41.8 ppg in its four victories, but managed just seven points against an Iowa team that has played well on defense this year, yielding single-digit point totals in its last two games.
Kill took responsibility for the loss, "We were beaten soundly today. We can grow from this by sticking together and getting better one day at a time. We have to take a look at the film and do a better job of coaching. I take responsibility for our lack of successful coaching."
He continued, "We've got a young team, so we have to continue to move forward and correct mistakes now. If we acknowledge mistakes now, then we can move forward."
The undefeated Wolverines were idle last weekend, giving head coach Brady Hoke some extra time to game plan for their conference opener against the Golden Gophers. Michigan has topped the likes of Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Akron and Connecticut, three of which took place at home. The last two games have been much closer than many would have thought, with the Maize and Blue besting the Zips and Huskies by a combined seven points.
While acknowledging the need to continue to improve, Hoke liked what he saw from his team in the UConn game.
"I thought our team did a really good job of being resilient, especially in the second half. I thought defensively, we played awfully hard and productively. We did a nice job."
He went on to say, "Obviously we're happy to win but the way our kids responded was great."
Michigan has dominated the long-standing relationship with Minnesota, posting a 72-24-3 series record. The Wolverines have won five straight, 21 of the last 22, and 37 of the last 40 meetings. Minnesota's lone win over the last two- plus decades was a 23-20 upset of No. 24 Michigan on Oct. 8, 2005.
The normally potent Minnesota rushing attack was limited to a mere 30 yards -- about 250 fewer than it averaged coming in -- by Iowa last week. Philip Nelson was just 12-of-24 for 135 yards with a TD, two INTs and he was sacked four times. Derrick Engel turned his five catches into 67 yards and a score.
The Hawkeyes rolled up 464 yards to just 165 for the home team, and they dominated the time of possession battle, 36:01 to 23:59. Both Cedric Thompson and Damien Wilson logged 10 tackles in the game for UM, and the Gophers came up with a pair of turnovers, but did not record a sack.
For the season, Minnesota is averaging 34.8 ppg while allowing 20.6 ppg. The Gophers have been especially effective running the football (231.8 ypg), while the passing attack (111.2 ypg) has been grossly ineffective. David Cobb (352 yards, five TDs) leads the team and is one of four players to have rushed for more than 200 yards. Both Nelson and Mitch Leidner have been more productive on the ground, combining for 454 yards and eight scores, and it's a good thing because they've been horrible in the passing game, neither averaging more than 95 ypg and with more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (two).
Despite their favorable record, the Golden Gophers give up just shy of 400 ypg, with their effort against the run (131.4 ypg, 3.9 ypc) being better than their showing defending the pass (259.6 ypg). Wilson and Brock Vereen have each logged 30 tackles, while Aaron Hill is hot on their heels with 29. Theiren Cockran has half of the team's six sacks, and the unit as a whole has come up with seven turnovers.
Michigan is fortunate to be undefeated at this point in the season, but despite narrow escapes in its last two games, the team is putting up 38.0 ppg while permitting 21.0 ppg. The rushing attack boasts a pair of 300-yard rushers in Fitzgerald Toussaint and Devin Gardner, the duo combining for 10 TDs as well.
Gardner has been relatively ineffective as a passer, completing just 57.4 percent of his attempts for 801 with seven TDs and eight interceptions. Despite his quarterback's struggles, Jeremy Gallon, who has a streak of 30 straight games with at least one catch, has 22 receptions for 328 yards and four scores -- nearly three times the production of his closest teammate (Devin Funchess, eight rec., 145 yards, one TD).
Defensively, the Wolverines are downright stingy when it comes to stopping the run, yielding a mere 79 ypg to rank sixth in the country. They have yet to allow a rushing TD this season, and there are nine guys who have double-digit tackles, five of which have 20 or more.
Raymond Taylor spearheads the unit with 25 stops, Blake Countess has come up with three picks, and Brennen Beyer and Cameron Gordon each have a pair of sacks, the team logging nine sacks on the season. The unit has recovered only one fumble.
After a successful start to the campaign, Minnesota is staring down the barrel of a two-game losing streak. Winning in Ann Arbor is extremely difficult for visiting teams, and without any semblance of a passing attack, the Golden Gophers will be hard-pressed to establish much of an offensive presence. Expect Gardner to try once again to get on track, but for the Wolverines to run the ball and run it often in keeping their perfect record in tact.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 35, Minnesota 17
10/02 10:34:21 ET