The Michigan football team, quite literally, ran away with this one.
Karan Higdon and Chris Evans combined for 391 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went for 60-plus yards. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines led 33-7, and a Minnesota field goal in the waning moments provided the final score line.
By the time the clock finally expired on a game that had been determined early, Michigan maintained its possession of the Little Brown Jug. A lot went right to get there, but some still went wrong.
The Daily breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly from Saturday night’s rain-delayed thrashing of Minnesota:
On 3rd-and-15 from its own 10-yard line, Minnesota went to a play that has plagued the Wolverines all year. Running back Rodney Smith took the ball off the direct snap with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
He was promptly dropped by Khaleke Hudson for a loss of three yards. Sophomore linebacker Devin Bush Jr. proceeded to go for a piggyback ride on Hudson’s shoulders, tapping his teammate’s helmet all the way.
It was one of plenty celebrations for Hudson. And he had plenty reason to celebrate.
Michigan’s sophomore VIPER wreaked havoc against Minnesota, finishing with 13 tackles — six and a half for loss — two sacks and a forced fumble.
The performance nearly became one for the record books. Instead, Larry Foote’s 2001 showing against Iowa — which included seven tackles-for-loss — is still standing as the most by a Michigan player in a single game. And with Saturday night’s outing, Hudson now leads the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss with 12.5.
A new player seems to headline the Wolverines’ defense every week. This time, it was Hudson’s turn.
It’s been a rough stretch for Quinn Nordin.
Michigan’s redshirt freshman kicker entered Saturday night having missed an extra point against Penn State and a 37-yard field goal against Rutgers in consecutive weeks.
Nordin again missed an extra point after junior running back Karan Higdon’s 77-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter, before pushing a 49-yard field goal wide right before the end of the first half.
“We thought he was going too fast,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “That’s what we noticed last week and then in practice this week, we thought we had that corrected. I think we did correct it.
“(On) the missed extra point he looked up too early, and he got his left hip in front of his right too much and pulled it left. I thought the long field goal, the 49-yarder, was a good hit, it just went a bit wide right. Just keep working on it.”
It’s hard to criticize Nordin for the missed field goal, but what once seemed like all but a guaranteed source for points is now far less certain.
Nordin has now made 14 of his 18 field goals on the year but has failed to convert on his two attempts in the last three games.
With just under 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Brandon Peters lined up under center facing a 3rd-and-4 from Michigan’s 29-yard line.
He took the snap and dropped back into the pocket, only to have Merrick Jackson fly — unchecked by freshman right guard Cesar Ruiz — into the backfield. Merrick had a free shot at Michigan’s redshirt freshman quarterback, and he took it.
Peters absorbed a crushing hit, one that left him lying on the turf for roughly 20 seconds before walking off the field.
For all the success Michigan’s offensive line had in sparking the run game — the Wolverines rushed for 371 yards and averaged 10 yards per carry — its pass protection left something to be desired, to say the least. Peters was sacked three times for a loss of 23 yards against the Golden Gophers, including another straight-on, bruising hit in the third quarter.
If the matchup with Minnesota showed anything, it’s that Peters is now unquestionably the Wolverines’ starter. If Michigan wants it to stay that way, hits like Saturday night’s can only go on for so long.