The Wolverines built a 17-3 lead in the first half with John Navarre (15 for 26 for 225 yards and two touchdowns) finding tight end Bennie Joppru (three catches, all in the first half) and wideout Ronald Bellamy (five catches and a touchdown, all in the first half) with deadly accuracy.
In the second half Michigan came out a 'little flat' and a 'lot careless', committing numerous penalties including two costly personal fouls to let the Gophers slip back back into the game for a 17-17 tie midway through the third quarter.
But then Pierre Woods snuffed Minnesota's comeback momentum with a key blocked punt, and Michigan started rolling once again. Navarre began getting the ball to Braylon Edwards (four receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, all in the third quarter), and BJ Askew (100 second-half yards on only eight carries, and two fourth quarter touchdowns; he had 126 yards on only 11 carries overall) began run-a-way-freight-training it as Michigan pulled back out to a comfortable victory.
Woods Blocks the Gophers
Braylon Eyes a TD
Defensively, Michigan kept the Gopher running game fairly well under control, and kept enough pressure on quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq to force him into fairly erratic passing (17 of 36, with three interceptions).
As far as the infamous Metrodome injury buguboo, Zach Kaufman went out for the season with a knee injury, and Chris Perry added to his ongoing ankle problems with a rib injury as well. But Askew effectively filled the gap at running back and Joey Sarantos stepped in at linebacker and delivered some great hits (seven tackles and an interception) in his first extensive action.
Other performances of note.
- Jeremy LeSueur is increasingly a force on the field, as kickoff returner (he had two, for 29 and 30 yards) as well as cornerback (one interception).
- Jon Shaw (a pass breakup and an interception, and seven tackles) is a major pleasant surprise at safety.
- Adam Finley is having the best Wolverine punter-season since Monte Robbins' first year (47. 3 yard average in this game), although he made just two of four short field goals; the FG misses were squeakers, but here's hoping incoming recruit Garrett Rivas can come in and place kick next year (he's 8-11 this year) so Finley can concentrate on being a tremendous weapon as a punter.
- Pierre Woods redux: if you've noticed, even when not playing much he is always one of the main spirit-leaders on the team.
- Braylon Edwards redux: he is the best yardage-after-the-catch Wolverine wideout since Desmond Howard, and one of the three best ever including Anthony Carter. Opinion: his anxiousness to turn the ball upfield may be what makes him drop the ball a little too much -- sometimes he takes his eye off the ball too early to look upfield .
Looking ahead, with Wisconsin getting steam-rollered by Illinois yesterday and Ohio State barely squeaking by Purdue (and Mo Clarett reinjuring his shoulder) ... well, Michigan fans should be extremely excited about getting out there and finishing strong. As John Navare said after the game, "Our goals are still ahead of us: We want to win out the last three games." If the linebacker corps can just hold together ...
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