Saturday, November 4, 2017

Michigan dominates Minnesota behind Higdon, Hudson

                                                      Photo Credit: Michigan Athletics

By: Jeremy Rosenberg

On an electric evening in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines bullied and bruised the Minnesota Golden Gophers for a convincing 33-10 victory. The night was dark and full of terrors in the hour preceding the scheduled 7:30 pm kickoff, but the lightning stopped, the thunder receded, and the rain let up. It was set to be a battle of hardy northerners, and a little inclement weather won’t stop anyone in Michigan or Minnesota. By 8:30 the deluge had ended, and the game kicked off with a de facto claiming of the extra daylight savings hour from 100,000+ people.

When the game did begin, on the opening drive Mo Hurst and the Michigan defense stuffed the Minnesota rushing attack, as the Gophers stalled at midfield. In Michigan’s first possession, the Wolverines drove down field courtesy of the running game. The drive was capped off by a perfectly set-up 20-yard screen pass for a touchdown from Brandon Peters to Sean McKeon.

Unable to muster a traditional running attack, Minnesota resorted to well-designed trickery on their second possession. The Gophers employed an innovative series of jet sweeps, wildcat (wild gopher?) runs, designed QB keepers, chest passes, and misdirections on a ten play, 75-yard drive that took over six minutes off the clock, culminating in a 10-yard TD run by running back Rodney Smith. The score was even at 7-7.

The Michigan offensive line proceeded to take over the game, with Karan Higdon exploding almost untouched for 77-yards and a Wolverine touchdown. After the Higdon homerun, the Michigan defense figured out Fleck’s trickery and shut down the Gopher running game. When Minnesota did try to pass, Mo Hurst shielded a blocker with one arm, and dragged down Gopher QB Demry Croft with the other arm.

Chris Evans joined the party with a 6o-yard dash up the sideline, and Michigan took a 20-7 lead into halftime. With the Wolverine line gashing huge holes for their running backs, there was little need for Brandon Peters to do much throwing. Turns out all you need to be a great QB is to hand off to Karan Higdon.

Both teams stalled out offensively as the second half got under way. The first spark of the third quarter came when Khaleke Hudson, who was having a stellar overall game up to this point, fired around the edge and stripped Croft of the football. Michigan recovered and had possession at midfield.

Michigan continued with an effective and innovative second half strategy – handing the ball off to Karan Higdon. Brandon Peters made the throws he had to, connecting with Donovan Peoples-Jones for an important third down conversion. Higdon finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, and Michigan had a 27-7 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

Lest Karan Higdon be the only one to drop purple rain all over Minnesota, the Michigan offense continued to go crazy running with Chris Evans, who partied like it was 1999 with a 67-yard touchdown run. Even with another failed conversion, Michigan held a commanding 33-7 lead. This is what it sounds like when Gophers cry.

The Gophers did manage to tack on a late field goal to shrink the Michigan lead to 33-10. Considering the over/under for the game was forty-one, in Vegas the house was smiling. I can't imagine too many people bet the over on this one.

Michigan took care of business this evening, behind a stout running game led by Karan Higdon, and beastly defense by Khaleke Hudson. With today's mayhem in the B1G East, Michigan has a glimmer of hope in the weeks to come. With games at Wisconsin and at home against Ohio State, the Wolverines will have a chance to prove themselves.

As for the Gophers, it will take time for P.J. Fleck to work his enthusiastic recruiting magic. Until then, this season's group of Gophers look like an out-of-sync trireme, struggling to row in a straight line.