Due to inconsistencies in the passing game, the Wolverines have rotated in different quarterbacks throughout the season.
So to beat Minnesota on Saturday, Michigan went to the ground.
The Gophers lost to the Wolverines 33-10, leaving the Little Brown Jug trophy in Ann Arbor, Michigan until at least 2020, and the run defense didn’t give the Gophers enough room to retake the trophy Saturday. Minnesota allowed 371 rushing yards as the Wolverines averaged 10 yards per carry.
“You have one missed tackle against this team, you’re off [of] the gate,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “We had a lot of people miss a ton of tackles, and [we] had to make some adjustments.”
The story for Minnesota was the run defense allowing yards and the unit's difficulty making tackles was a big reason for that.
“Certain players tackle better than certain other players,” Fleck said. “The runs kept spitting out because of a lot of missed tackles, that’s the big thing.”
The first of the big rushes against Minnesota was the longest, a 77-yard touchdown from running back Karan Higdon.
The second, a 60-yard rush by running back Chris Evans, found ways to break away from Minnesota’s defenders. Three Gophers defenders missed tackles on the play, and then the deficit was increased to 20-7.
The third of the long runs against the Gophers, the fifth touchdown of the day for the Wolverines, was another run from Evans, this time for 67 yards. Three players on the defense missed tackles this time, including safety Duke McGhee. McGhee ran down Evans, but didn’t bring him down before getting into the end zone.
Minnesota allowed 427 yards and five touchdowns, including four rushing touchdowns.
Michigan was nine yards away from having two running backs each reach 200 yards in the game. Higdon had 200 yards and two touchdowns, while Evans had 191 yards and two touchdowns.
“I would probably go back to execution,” said linebacker Blake Cashman. “I felt like maybe we were playing a little bit on our heels, and we didn’t hit them in the mouth first, and if we would have done that, who knows what would’ve happened.”
Higdon's 200 yards marked the most yards for a Michigan running back against Minnesota in a game since 1995.
Minnesota got off to a similar start defensively as it did last week against Iowa. The Gophers allowed a first possession touchdown to the Wolverines, like they did against Iowa last week, putting themselves in a deficit early.
“It’s not an easy place to come into and win,” Cashman said. “There’s no excuse not to get the job done.”