Backup Backfield Leads Wolverines Past Gophers
Saturday, October 27, 2007

Big catches by Mario Manningham and electrifying running by Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, sophomore backups to injured Mike Hart, allowed Michigan to spot the Minnesota Gophers 10 points and still win 34-10 to hang on to the Little Brown Jug.

Hart, who is third in the country with 154 rushing yards per game, missed his second straight game after spraining his ankle two weeks before in a game against Purdue. The Wolverines were also without quarterback Chad Henne, who injured his shoulder the week before at Illinois. Stepping in for Henne was a 6-foot, 7-inch freshman, Ryan Mallett, who was unable to lead the Wolverines on a sustained drive in the first quarter.

The Gophers did better and, on their second possession, drove 68 yards as freshman quarterback Adam Weber hit Eric Decker over the middle for 23 yards and then ran 14 yards to get to the Michigan 18. However, on a third-and-four play, Weber underthrew Tray Herndon, and Minnesota had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Joel Monroe. This turned out to be the high point for Weber and the offense.

Even so, Minnesota increased its lead on the first play of the second quarter. Working from the shotgun, Mallett dropped the ball after taking the snap and starting to hand it off. His attempted to fall on the loose ball knocked it forward to the Michigan 46, where Minnesota’s Dominique Barber picked it up and ran it back all the way for a touchdown and a 10-0 Minnesota lead.

The Wolverines got field goals by K. C. Lopata on their next two possessions. The first was a 42-yarder into a strong wind just as the sun made one of its brief appearances during the game. The second, from 29 yards, was set up by a great catch by junior wide receiver Mario Manningham. On a third-and-seven from the Michigan 41, Manningham raced down the left sideline and reached for a pass from Mallett. He didn’t completely corral it the first time but kept it alive for a second attempt, finally securing the ball and taking it down to the Minnesota 15.

Michigan took the lead the next time it had the ball, a touchdown drive that included another outstanding catch by Manningham for a 24-yard gain to Minnesota’s 5. On a third-and-goal from the four, Mallett tried to connect with Manningham in the end zone. The play was broken up, but Ryan Collado was called for defensive pass interference, giving Michigan a first down on the 2. Minor then took the ball into the end zone and, with Lopata’s point-after, Michigan moved ahead, 13-10, with 2:49 to go.

The Wolverines got the ball back with 1:47 left in the half and two time outs, but the attempt to extend the lead nearly resulted in the Wolverines giving it back as Mallett lost the ball as he was sacked by Derrick Onwuachi. However, right tackle Steve Schilling beat Onwuachi to the ball, falling on it at the 10 yard line and preventing Minnesota from a chance to tie or retake the lead. Michigan then ran the clock out and clung to its three-point lead at halftime.

The score stayed at 13-10 until late in the third quarter despite some big plays by Minor, including a 46-yard run that put him over 100 yards for the game. He could get only two more yards on the next two plays, however, and, after Mallett underthrew Manningham, the Wolverines had to punt the ball away.

When they got it back, Mallett and Manningham connected on a third-and-six play from the Michigan 29. Manningham made a great over-the-shoulder catch right before going out of bounds at the Minnesota 23. Brown then broke numerous tackles before being brought down at the 5 and, on the next play, found little resistance as he went into the end zone.

Early in the fourth quarter, Michigan made the score 27-10 as Manningham beat Ryan Collado and took a pass over his left shoulder in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.

The Wolverines’ final score came when Brown, from the Michigan 15, cut back through an opening on the left side of the line, turned on the speed, and went 85 yards for a touchdown, the second-longest run in Michigan history. The run gave Brown 132 yards for the game to go with 157 for Minor.

Neither appeared in the game again as Michigan coach Lloyd Carr alternated quarterbacks Nick Sheridan and David Cone and shuttled in numerous running backs on the final drive of the game. The Wolverines stuck to the ground until the final play. Although they could have let the clock run out at that point, Cone connected on a play-action pass for 21 yards to Andre Criswell, a move that was clearly not appreciated by Minnesota coach Tim Brewster.

For Michigan, Mallett completed 11 or 20 passes for 233 yards. Manningham had five receptions for 162 yards.

For Minnesota, Duane Bennett ran for 106 yards, more than the 99 yards covered by the passing of Weber, who completed 14 of 30.

The paid attendance was 109,432 for a game that ended in the early evening with the players on the field producing faint shadows from the illumination provided by four portable light towers extending above the stands from outside the stadium.

Michigan has now won seven in a row after losing its first two games, including its opener against a Division I-AA team. Minnesota remained winless in the Big Ten with an overall record of 1-7.

Michigan now leads the series against Minnesota, 69-24-3, and has lost 35 of the last 38 games. The Gophers won in Ann Arbor in 2005 and 1986 and in Minnesota in 1977 for their last three wins against Michigan.

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