MINNEAPOLIS – Asad Abdul-Khaliq was not going to let this one
get away. The Gophers’ senior quarterback had spent the first two
seasons of his college career watching the Wolverines walk away
with the Little Brown Jug. He wasn’t going to let it happen
again.

With just over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter and
Minnesota leading 28-21, Abdul-Khaliq exploded through the Michigan
defensive line on third-and-short and took it 52 yards all the way
to the endzone to put the Gophers ahead 35-21.

But as it turned out, Minnesota’s fate did not lie in
Abdul-Khaliq’s hands. Maybe he should have started playing defense,
too.

Despite leading the Minnesota offense to 35 points (the most its
scored against Michigan since 1937), Abdul-Khaliq could do nothing
to help the Gophers’ ‘D’ stop the Wolverine offense from putting up
24 points in the fourth quarter.

“Every guy who played tonight left everything out on the field,
but for some reason, I can’t explain it, we didn’t get it done
tonight,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “I think we came out and played damn
good tonight, but we didn’t finish as a team.”

Holding a 28-7 lead entering the fourth quarter made this loss
especially difficult to deal with. Minnesota head coach Glen Mason
said he was frustrated that his defense couldn’t stop the
Wolverines, but knew his team’s performance wasn’t lacking
effort.

“I’m extremely proud of my team right now,” Mason said. “The way
they prepared for this game and how hard they played. It’s one of
those games where, at times, we played really well, but at other
times, we left a lot to be desired.”

The fourth quarter was one of those “left a lot to be desired”
instances Mason referred to.

The Wolverines passing game started clicking just as Minnesota’s
defense began imploding. Chris Perry caught seven passes – mostly
short screens and dump-offs from John Navarre – for over 70 yards.
The Gophers had difficulty reading these short passes, allowing
Perry to run for big yardage after the catch.

“We didn’t have a way to stop him,” said Mason of Perry. “I was
amazed at how they went from being cold to hot.”

Michigan also had success going deep, as Navarre connected with
Edwards for a 52-yard bomb down the sideline that brought the
Wolverines within a touchdown in the middle of the fourth
quarter.

Minnesota running back Marion Barber, who set a new career-high
with 197 yards, said it was difficult watching the Michigan offense
score repeatedly from the sideline.

“It was tough, but the defense was doing their thing, and they
just came up short tonight,” Barber said.

After suffering its first setback, it’s now Minnesota’s turn to
think about regrouping. The Gophers will host a Michigan State team
that has yet to lose a conference game. And Spartans quarterback
Jeff Smoker is making a case for comeback player of the year with
his strong play of late.

“We worked extremely hard to get to this point, and just because
you have a setback doesn’t mean you give up,” Mason said. “You get
up and go again. The team is down right now, but we have to regroup
and come back against a very good Michigan State team.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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