Backup Leads Michigan to 35-13 Win over Minnesota
November 3, 2012

After sputtering in the opening period, backup quarterback Devin Gardner led Michigan on a series of long drives as the Wolverines beat Minnesota 35-13.

Gardner moved from receiver to behind the center as Denard Robinson was held out, a decision made the night before according to coach Brady Hoke, after an elbow injury in Michigan’s game the previous week against Nebraska.

The Wolverines gained only 9 yards on three drives in the first quarter, one of which was quickly stopped by an interception by Cedric Thompson. “We didn’t do that well at the line of scrimmage at the start,” said Hoke, indicating that the blocking for Gardner and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was lacking. On the topic of lacking, Hoke said another factor was the “lack of our special teams being special at all.”

Will Hagerup, the Big Ten’s leading punter, shanked a punt that gave the Gophers the ball at the Michigan 43 near the end of the first quarter. It was the second time Minnesota had a short field to work with. On the subject Michigan strong safety Jordan Kovacs said “We welcome it. Our motto is, ‘Spot the ball.’”

On this drive, however, the Gophers got to the 10 and, on third and eight to begin the second quarter, scored on a misdirection play with Philip Nelson hitting a wide-open John Rabe to give Minnesota a 7-0 lead.

The Gophers appeared to have the Wolverines in a tough spot, holding the lead and forcing Michigan to start, after a holding penalty on the kickoff runback, from its own 9. Thomas Rawls took over some of the running load and combined with a few completions from Gardner to reach Minnesota territory for the first time. Gardner was sacked, leaving Michigan to face a third and 17 at the 45. The Gophers put on another rush, but Gardner scrambled back and forth across the field long enough for Drew Dileo to be left free in the end zone. Gardner heaved a pass that Dileo hauled in to tie the game.

The Wolverines next drive went nearly as long as Michigan, set back by a penalty on a punt runback, started at its 10. Toussaint took the ball on the ground as Gardner mixed in passes, but Michigan faced a third and goal at the Minnesota 4 with under a minute left. The Wolverines went for the touchdown, and Gardner’s loft to tight end Devin Funchess was too long, but Martez Shabazz was called for interference, giving the Wolverines a first down on the 2. Rawls took it in, and Michigan took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.

On drives of 86 and 79 yards, Gardner threw for a touchdown in the third quarter and ran for another in the fourth, putting the Wolverines comfortably in command. The Gophers got a pair of field goals and, after Michigan covered an onside kick and got to the Minnesota 41, facing fourth and inches, Toussaint burst through the line for a first down, stayed upright, and ran the rest of the way for a touchdown to complete the scoring.

“It didnít surprise us,” said Hoke of the performance by Gardner. “He did a nice job of managing the team.”

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill lamented missed opportunities by his team. “I don’t think the score is an indication. They made some plays. They threw the ball up, and the guy went up and up and got it a couple times. We had opportunities, threw the ball up, and we didn’t come down with it.

“Sooner or later you have got to make a play, and we couldn’t make a play today. That’s what the game of football comes down to. You can go every Saturday. The team that makes the most plays generally wins.’

Gopher Holes: Michigan holds a 72-24-3 lead in the series against Minnesota and has won 21 of the past 22 games.

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