Rapid Reaction: Michigan tops Minnesota in B1G opener for both
Michigan opened its delayed pursuit of an elusive Big Ten championship with a difficult task, a trip to face No. 21 Minnesota on Saturday at Minneapolis.
The Wolverines got just the start they were looking for.
Michigan quarterback Joe Milton got the start, passing for one touchdown and running for another to outduel Minnesota counterpart Tanner Morgan in a 49-24 victory. Milton was 15-of-22 for 225 yards. Michigan also brought a stout running game, piling up 258 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing.
A short pass from Milton to tight end Erick All in the third quarter turned into a 27-yard play, setting up Milton’s 2-yard touchdown run to give the Wolverines a 42-24 lead.
Special teams were critical in the first half. Minnesota blocked a punt to set up a touchdown and Michigan’s Jake Moody missed a 38-yard field goal try. But the Wolverines got a big break on special teams when Michael Barrett returned a squib kick 66 yards to the Minnesota 8-yard line to set up a Wolverines touchdown for a 21-10 lead.
Running back Mohamed Ibrahim scored to bring Minnesota back within 21-17 but Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins, who was a key part of the offense as the game went on, scored in the second quarter for a 28-17 advantage.
Haskins also made the tackle to stuff another important special teams play, a failed fake punt deep in Golden Gophers territory. That set up a 29-yard TD drive, capped by Haskins’ second scoring run, for a 35-17 lead.
Minnesota was without starting kicker Michael Lantz and punter Mark Crawford among other starters, undoubtedly affecting coach P.J. Fleck’s decisions including the fake punt.
The Wolverines defense struck in the first quarter when Barrett, a junior linebacker, sacked Morgan, the ball popped loose and defensive lineman Donovan Jeter returned the gift 15 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Minnesota shut down Michigan on third down on the first Wolverines drive, then Caden Fey blocked Will Hart’s punt to set up the Golden Gophers offense with a short field at the Michigan 17-yard line. Two plays later, Morgan hit tight end Ko Kieft for a 14-yard touchdown.
Wolverines running back Zach Charbonnet answered immediately, bursting through the line and outsprinting everyone for a 70-yard touchdown run, untouched, and a 7-7 tie just 2:27 into the game.
Michigan will have to work on its special teams too — aside from allowing a punt to be blocked, there were also three missed field goals by Moody including a 48-yarder on the last play of the first half.
For Minnesota, Ibrahim rushed 26 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Morgan passed for 197 yards, 1 touchdown and an interception.
Michigan won the Little Brown Jug in 41 of the past 45 meetings against Minnesota entering Saturday and showed no signs of letting Minnesota end that dominance in the series. The Golden Gophers have not owned consecutive wins over Michigan since a 4-game winning streak in the series from 1960-63. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh improved to 2-7 in games against ranked teams on the road.