Michigan comes out on right side of crazy ending at Minnesota
Final: No. 15 Michigan 29, Minnesota 26
Key play: Michigan stuffs Mitch Leidner on fourth-and-goal
It was Michigan’s turn to end up on the right side of a miracle. The game appeared to be all but over when Drew Wolitarsky hauled in the go-ahead touchdown pass to give Minnesota the lead with 19 seconds left. But he was rightfully ruled down at the 1-yard line. Somehow, the Gophers didn’t realize that the clock was running and by the time Mitch Leidner threw an incomplete pass, there were only two seconds left. Tracy Claeys went for the win instead of the tie with the field goal, but Michigan stuffed Leidner to preserve a wild road win. Unbelievable.
Telling stat: Michigan outscores Minnesota 15-10 in second despite losing every stat
Seriously, try and find a stat that the Wolverines won. They were out-gained 461-296, they lost the turnover battle 2-0, they lost the time of possession battle and somehow, they still won the game. Mitch Leidner even threw for 317 yards and the once lifeless Minnesota offense racked up 93 more yards than any team had previously put up against the nation’s top scoring defense. There’s not a single stat you can point to for the Wolverines and explain that victory. Minnesota did everything to upset Michigan but finish. It was far and away the Gophers’ best game of the year and they still couldn’t pull out a monumental victory following the retirement of Jerry Kill.
–Jabrill Peppers was the best football player on the field
When Michigan fans heard about Peppers committing to Michigan, that was the type of performance they probably envisioned. Peppers set up each of the Wolverines’ first two touchdown drives with long returns. Then he came into the game on offense and scored his first career touchdown. It came in fitting fashion. Peppers took the snap on the wildcat, flashed his speed getting to the outside and trucked Eric Murray to get into the end zone. At the time, it gave the Wolverines the lead and provided the life they needed. And when Jake Rudock went down, Peppers took a bunch of snaps in the wildcat and helped keep the Michigan offense moving. He even made a game-saving trip on Mitch Leidner on a scramble he likely would’ve taken to the house. With the exception of the odd end zone punt he received, it was an incredible day for the redshirt freshman. The hype is certainly real.
-Rudock goes down, Wilton Speight steps up
The Michigan quarterback slid a little too late and paid the price. His neck was bent awkwardly on a big Minnesota hit and he was sidelined for the rest of the day. For a while, it appeared that Peppers in the wildcat was the only way the Wolverines were going to drive. But credit a third-string quarterback for keeping his composure and delivering a strike to Jehu Chesson for the go-ahead score. His first actual game action didn’t start off well, but he finished it with a clutch throw to preserve Michigan’s B1G East hopes.
What it means: Michigan is mortal, Minnesota can play inspired
For everybody saying that the Michigan defense was far and away the best in the country, the last two games have been a bit of a reality check. That’s now 47 points allowed in the last two games following that incredible shutout streak. James Ross was everywhere, but Michigan’s line looked fatigued throughout the night. Michigan has some work to do to get back to that smash-mouth style that fueled it in the first half of B1G play. But let’s not take anything away from the Gophers. K.J. Maye came up huge with Jourdan Lewis draped all over him on fourth down. Rodney Smith kept the game alive with a gritty 18-yard catch on third down late in the fourth quarter. De’Vondre Campbell and Cody Poock contained the Michigan ground game. We wondered how Kill’s retirement would affect the Gophers against one of the B1G’s best. Well, we saw. It’s a shame for the Gophers that some odd clock management spoiled that effort. But for Michigan, the dream of a B1G East title is still — barely — alive.