Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Fresh off their first loss of the season,the Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to make amends as they take on the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Big Ten Conference action on the road thisSaturday.
Coach Jerry Kill's Gophers dropped a 23-7 decision at home to Big Ten rivalIowa last weekend, putting an end to the team's four-game, season-opening winstreak. Minnesota averaged 41.8 ppg in its four victories, but managed justseven points against an Iowa team that has played well on defense this year,yielding single-digit point totals in its last two games.
Kill took responsibility for the loss, "We were beaten soundly today. We cangrow from this by sticking together and getting better one day at a time. Wehave to take a look at the film and do a better job of coaching. I takeresponsibility for our lack of successful coaching."
He continued, "We've got a young team, so we have to continue to move forwardand correct mistakes now. If we acknowledge mistakes now, then we can moveforward."
The undefeated Wolverines were idle last weekend, giving head coach BradyHoke some extra time to game plan for their conference opener against theGolden Gophers. Michigan has topped the likes of Central Michigan, Notre Dame,Akron and Connecticut, three of which took place at home. The last two gameshave been much closer than many would have thought, with the Maize and Bluebesting the Zips and Huskies by a combined seven points.
While acknowledging the need to continue to improve, Hoke liked what he sawfrom his team in the UConn game.
"I thought our team did a really good job of being resilient, especially inthe second half. I thought defensively, we played awfully hard andproductively. We did a nice job."
He went on to say, "Obviously we're happy to win but the way our kidsresponded was great."
Michigan has dominated the long-standing relationship with Minnesota, postinga 72-24-3 series record. The Wolverines have won five straight, 21 of the last22, and 37 of the last 40 meetings. Minnesota's lone win over the last two-plus decades was a 23-20 upset of No. 24 Michigan on Oct. 8, 2005.
The normally potent Minnesota rushing attack was limited to a mere 30 yards --about 250 fewer than it averaged coming in -- by Iowa last week. Philip Nelsonwas just 12-of-24 for 135 yards with a TD, two INTs and he was sacked fourtimes. Derrick Engel turned his five catches into 67 yards and a score.
The Hawkeyes rolled up 464 yards to just 165 for the home team, and theydominated the time of possession battle, 36:01 to 23:59. Both Cedric Thompsonand Damien Wilson logged 10 tackles in the game for UM, and the Gophers cameup with a pair of turnovers, but did not record a sack.
For the season, Minnesota is averaging 34.8 ppg while allowing 20.6 ppg. TheGophers have been especially effective running the football (231.8 ypg), whilethe passing attack (111.2 ypg) has been grossly ineffective. David Cobb (352yards, five TDs) leads the team and is one of four players to have rushed formore than 200 yards. Both Nelson and Mitch Leidner have been more productiveon the ground, combining for 454 yards and eight scores, and it's a good thingbecause they've been horrible in the passing game, neither averaging more than95 ypg and with more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (two).
Despite their favorable record, the Golden Gophers give up just shy of 400ypg, with their effort against the run (131.4 ypg, 3.9 ypc) being better thantheir showing defending the pass (259.6 ypg). Wilson and Brock Vereen haveeach logged 30 tackles, while Aaron Hill is hot on their heels with 29.Theiren Cockran has half of the team's six sacks, and the unit as a whole hascome up with seven turnovers.
Michigan is fortunate to be undefeated at this point in the season, butdespite narrow escapes in its last two games, the team is putting up 38.0 ppgwhile permitting 21.0 ppg. The rushing attack boasts a pair of 300-yardrushers in Fitzgerald Toussaint and Devin Gardner, the duo combining for 10TDs as well.
Gardner has been relatively ineffective as a passer, completing just 57.4percent of his attempts for 801 with seven TDs and eight interceptions.Despite his quarterback's struggles, Jeremy Gallon, who has a streak of 30straight games with at least one catch, has 22 receptions for 328 yards andfour scores -- nearly three times the production of his closest teammate(Devin Funchess, eight rec., 145 yards, one TD).
Defensively, the Wolverines are downright stingy when it comes to stopping therun, yielding a mere 79 ypg to rank sixth in the country. They have yet toallow a rushing TD this season, and there are nine guys who have double-digittackles, five of which have 20 or more.
Raymond Taylor spearheads the unit with 25 stops, Blake Countess has come upwith three picks, and Brennen Beyer and Cameron Gordon each have a pair ofsacks, the team logging nine sacks on the season. The unit has recovered onlyone fumble.