BY DAILY FOOTBALL BEAT
Published November 3, 2012
PREGAME: The Michigan football team visits Minnesota trying to regain its footing after a 23-9 loss to Nebraska. For additional coverage, follow TheBlockM, Stephen J. Nesbitt, Ben Estes, Zach Helfand and Luke Pasch on Twitter.
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FIRST QUARTER: The biggest news of an uneventful first quarter was that senior quarterback Denard Robinson is out for the game with his right elbow nerve injury, with junior Devin Gardner starting in his place.
In what seems like a good indicator of how the rest of the game is likely to go, both teams struggled to move the ball in the opening quarter. The Michigan defense forced a punt after Minnesota gained a couple first downs, and the Golden Gopher defense did the same, aided by a sack on a third-down pass attempt by Gardner.
It was more of the same for each of the next few drives. The biggest play came off a poor choice by Gardner — the junior threw into double coverage with a defender in his face, and it was intercepted by Cedric Thompson.
After another three-and-out by the Wolverines — this time thanks to a dropped third-down pass by junior wide receiver Drew Dileo — Minnesota went on a sustained drive and was threatening in the Michigan red zone at quarter’s end. The Gophers had the ball for over 11 minutes in the frame, and the Wolverines ran eight plays for nine yards.
SECOND QUARTER: Minnesota cashed in on the first play of the second quarter. An apparent miscommunication by the Michigan defense left tight end John Rabe wide open in the end zone, and quarterback Philip Nelson found him for the easy score.
But the Wolverines answered right back. Gardner led the team on a sustained drive, with Michigan picking up its initial first downs of the game. The quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback capped it with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Dileo. After scrambling around the pocket for what seemed like forever, Gardner finally lobbed it deep to the wide-open receiver in the corner of the end zone, tying the game at 7-7.
It was more of the same on the next drive for the Wolverines. With the offense again backed up to its own end zone to begin, Gardner completed back-to-back long passes and later scrambled for a key first down on third-and-long.
Sophomore running back Thomas Rawls, receiving his most extensive playing time in three weeks, ran it in from two yards out to put Michigan up 14-7 at halftime. Minnesota attempted a 55-yard field goal as time expired, but kicker Jordan Wettstein missed far to the left.
THIRD QUARTER: Gardner continued to roll in the third frame, while the Golden Gophers shot themselves in the foot.
Michigan received the opening kickoff of the second half but went three-and-out. Junior punter Will Hagerup shanked another punt, setting up Minnesota with good field position.
The Gophers drove to the Wolverines’ 19-yard line, and lined up for a field goal on fourth and 16 that would have cut the lead to four points. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill opted for the fake, which went for just five yards and gave the ball back to Michigan.
Michigan took over and drove 86 yards on seven plays to extend the lead to 21-7. Gardner passed effectively again, with a 47-yard completion to Gallon, and then a perfectly-placed pass to Gallon in the corner of the end zone for the score.
Minnesota responded quickly. At the end of the quarter, the Gophers drove 74 yards to advance to Michigan’s three-yard line as the period ended.
FOURTH QUARTER: Minnesota couldn’t punch the ball in from the three-yard line and settled for a field goal. The score cut Michigan’s lead to 11.
On Michigan’s next drive, another 47-yard Gardner pass, this time to fifth-year senior Roy Roundtree. On third down, Gardner took it himself, rushing on a bootleg for the score to put Michigan ahead 28-10 with 9:31 left in the game.
The Gophers came back with a chip-shot field goal to make the score 28-13. Michigan aided the Minneosta cause with three pass-interference penalties — one on redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan and two on fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd — the last of which gave the Gophers the ball on the three-yard line.
But Michigan responded with a 41-yard rushing touchdown from junior Fitz Toussaint, sealing the 35-13 victory.