Originally written on Hokeamaniac.com  |  Last updated 11/11/14

It was the 100th meeting of Michigan and Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug. Bottom line: Michigan won and as usual the jug stays in Ann Arbor.  Michigan has won the competition 73 times compared to Minnesota’s 24 wins.  There have been 3 ties.  However, it wasn’t quite what we had hoped for.   Michigan didn’t dominate Minnesota, despite what the 42-13 score suggests. In the first half Michigan ran 23 plays and allowed the Gophers to use a massive 16-play, 75-yard drive to tie it up at 7-7 late in the first quarter. Just before the half Gardner connected with Funchess to break the tie. 

Considering Hoke is a defensive minded coach it was concerning that the Michigan defense didn’t seem to be able to effectively contain Minnesota. Now on a high note, Devin Funchess rocks.  He caught a career-high seven passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.  Also Devin Gardner went 13 of 17 through the air for 235 yards and a touchdown. That’s an improvement.   Better yet, the Wolverines played without a turnover for the first time since their 58-0 win over Minnesota on Oct. 1, 2011.  That’s great news.

Turnovers have been an issue in the past. Michigan’s second half was much better than first half—another bright point. Relying on the ground game, Big Blue began to devour Minnesota in the third quarter.  The Wolverines finished their first second-half drive with a 2-yard dive into the end zone by Derrick Green. Their second drive culminated with a 12-yard TD run by Fitz Toussaint to make it 28-10 late in the third.  A 2-yard scoring run from Gardner and a 72-yard pick 6 by Blake Countess were the final two nails in the gopher coffin. So now let’s think about all of this. 

After barely escaping the Akron Zips and the Connecticut Huskies Michigan soundly beat a much better Minnesota Gopher team.  They more than covered the spread. I should be happy.  I would be if I hadn’t seen Michigan State playing Iowa and Northwestern playing Ohio State.  During those games I just kept thinking—we’re going to be in trouble down the road.  There.  I said what everybody else is afraid to say—November might be a month that we won’t want to remember.

Now that Michigan State’s quarterback has started to step up, little brother could be a big problem in East Lansing.  And after watching Northwestern and Ohio State, I honestly perish the thought of Michigan going to Evanston, and worse yet, Ohio State coming to the Ann Arbor.  If we played the way we played yesterday against either of those teams we would have been destroyed—maybe. The key words are “if” and “yesterday”.  If a dog had wings he wouldn’t be a dog. We didn’t play Northwestern or Ohio State yesterday.

So we really can only speculate what may or may not have happened.  Each football game has its own dynamics.  The Michigan football team is clearly improving each game.  That is all you can expect and ask for.   It’s a long time to November in football time. The issue at hand is going to Happy Valley, where the angry Nittany Lions will be gunning to redeem themselves after being upset by Indiana in Bloomington. 

Just like the team Minnesota fielded against us was a much better team the team they fielded in their lost to Iowa—again dynamics and context—always a game changer.   So next week will likely bring a tougher match than expected.  But the Wolverines will find a way to win, as they always have this season. That is what is important.  Every team has to improve.  Brady Hoke said it so eloquently yesterday, when a newscaster asked him if there were things Devin Gardner needed to improve on.  He said, “We all have things we can improve on.  I can improve as a head coach.”  There it is. 

There is room for improvement in this world—everywhere 24/7. So that would logically include the Michigan football team—a team that continues to improve and continues to win.  So, in my opinion, “it’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine”—always has been, always will be. 5-0 HAIL!

Dr. Billi Gordon

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