Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said he didn't think his large group of freshmen would suffer from big-stage jitters in their first trip to the Big House. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing, however.
Minnesota's youngsters learned just how difficult life can be in the Big Ten's pressure cooker in a 34-10 loss to No. 19 Michigan.
Freshman quarterback Adam Weber had the shakiest performance of his career, freshman cornerback Ryan Collado received a baptism by fire in defending star wide receiver Mario Manningham, and the Gophers were simply overmatched in the talent department.
"Those young freshmen that played for us got a lot of life lessons," Brewster said. "They're going to learn from those lessons, and they're going to be better from it. I couldn't be more proud of those kids."
Facing a Wolverines team playing without its top two stars, the Gophers (1-8, 0-5 Big Ten) showed some fight early but ultimately got wore down by Michigan in suffering their seventh-consecutive loss.
Michigan looked uneasy in the first half with the absence of senior quarterback Chad Henne (shoulder injury) and star tailback Mike Hart (ankle sprain). But the Wolverines overcame an early 10-0 deficit by scoring 34 unanswered points against a Gophers squad that played 12 freshmen, including eight true freshmen.
Weber never looked comfortable against Michigan's pressure and had a miserable day throwing the ball. He completed only 14 of 30 passes for 99 yards. He also fumbled twice (losing one) and was sacked three times. Weber completed only 3 of 13 passes for 40 yards with one fumble in the first half.
The offense managed 231 total yards and three points. Freshman running back Duane Bennett had his best performance with 106 rushing yards on 20 carries, but the offense did little else.
The Gophers' defense actually showed more good than bad in the first half.
But Michigan's offense came to life and used a string of big plays to put the Gophers on their heels after halftime.
Manningham, in particular, took advantage of the 5-foot-9 Collado on several occasions. One of college football's top receivers, Manningham caught five passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. He hauled in catches of 44, 24, 48 and 40 yards.
The Wolverines finished with 561 total yards — 307 rushing and 254 passing. With Hart out, backups Brandon Minor (157 rushing yards and one touchdown) and Carlos Brown (132 rushing yards and two touchdowns) combined to fill the void.
The game was actually tight for one half. The Gophers forced two turnovers in the first half, scored a defensive touchdown and trailed only 13-10 at halftime.
GAME BALL GOES TO: TB Duane Bennett — In his fourth career start, the true freshman rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries. He became the first Gophers freshman to crack 100 yards rushing in a game since Laurence Maroney in 2003.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Steve Davis — Nearly invisible earlier in the season, Davis posted double digits in tackles for the second-consecutive game, a first for the junior. He had 10 tackles (including one for a loss) and forced a fumble.
LOOKING GOOD: Senior safety Dominique Barber scored the second defensive touchdown of his career on a 46-yard fumble return on the first play of the second quarter. Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped the ball as he came out from under center, and Barber scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown.
LB Deon Hightower continues to make plays after moving to middle linebacker three weeks ago. Hightower had two tackles for loss Oct. 27.
TB Duane Bennett notched the first 100-yard rushing game of his career with 106 yards on 20 carries.
STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Adam Weber had the worst performance of his young career, completing only 14 of 30 passes for 99 yards with one fumble and three sacks. He was only 3 of 13 passing for 40 yards in the first half.
The defense had trouble against the pass early in the season, and now it can't stop the run. Michigan rolled up 307 rushing yards on 49 carries.
WR Eric Decker had only three catches for 40 yards.
ROSTER REPORT: No new injuries reported.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew it was going to be an experience. The Big House definitely lived up to its reputation." — Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, one of 13 Minnesota freshmen who played their first game in Michigan Stadium.
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