8:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006
8:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Michigan Wolverines had every reason to exact some revenge.
After watching the Gophers storm their sideline a year ago, snatch the Little Brown Jug, and plant their flag in The Big House turf, there was plenty of incentive to do the same at the Metrodome after a 28-14 victory over Minnesota on Saturday night.
The Wolverines' celebration was much more subdued -- and the statement that came with it was much more powerful.
They expect to win this game every time.
Chad Henne got the sixth-ranked Wolverines off to a fast start with three touchdown passes in the first half and the Michigan seniors calmly walked over and picked up the oldest rivalry trophy in college football as if they'd never lost it at all.
"There's been some issues where kids who are emotional sometimes do things that later they regret or wish they hadn't done," coach Lloyd Carr said. "I didn't want any issue after that game. I don't think any of us did."
Henne was 17-for-24 for 284 yards and Mike Hart ran for 195 yards -- 54 on his final carry of the game -- for the Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), who looked as though they would blow the game open early but let the Gophers (2-3, 0-2) hang around with a sluggish performance in the second half.
Bryan Cupito threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns to Logan Payne for the Gophers, who came into the game with the jug in hand for the first time in 20 years.
"You don't ever know how much you miss something until it's gone," Hart said. "It hurt because Michigan does not lose the jug."
Still smarting from their first loss to Minnesota since 1986, the Wolverines reclaimed what has been theirs for so much of jug's 103-year history. In the 89 games the Gophers and Michigan have played for the five-gallon jug, the Wolverines have won 64 times, dating to 1903.
"Our kids, they played their tails off," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "If that's not good enough for anybody, then too bad. It's good enough for me."
It was a little payback for Michigan, which was still haunted by visions of the Gophers' spirited celebration last season.
"That was Lloyd Carr's call," cornerback Leon Hall said of the understated approach. "He mentioned how we want to take it respectful. Either way, we got it back."
Michigan did its talking on the field, driving 80 yards for a score on their opening possession. The mammoth offensive line overpowered Minnesota's smallish defensive front, mostly running Hart off left tackle for big gains.
Henne capped the drive by hitting Adrian Arrington for a 16-yard TD pass on third-and-10. Henne hooked up with Arrington again early in the second on a 37-yard score to make it 14-0.
Cupito's 21-yard TD to Payne in the second quarter cut the deficit in half, but it took the Wolverines less than 4½ minutes to answer.
With the Gophers unable to stop the Wolverines rushing attack, defensive coordinator David Lockwood had no choice but to move his safeties up to help out. That left the Minnesota cornerbacks one-on-one with Michigan's receivers.
Mario Manningham blazed past Jamal Harris on a post and hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Henne to make it 21-7. Harris dived at Manningham's ankles just before the ball arrived, but wound up with a mouthful of turf as Manningham, who had five catches for 131 yards, celebrated in the end zone.
But the Wolverines were awfully sluggish in the final 30 minutes, squandering a first-and-goal from the 3 when Garrett Rivas missed a 23-yard field goal wide left.
Minnesota moved the ball reasonably well against Michigan's powerful defense, which came into the game No. 1 in the nation allowing just 18.5 yards rushing per game.
Amir Pinnix had 91 of the Gophers' 108 rushing yards, but they had a touchdown pass in the third quarter called back by a holding penalty among several missed opportunities.
"We ran hard," Mason said. "We knew we had to slug and bite and fight for every inch. Because that's the type of defense they are. And that's what we did."
Down 28-7 with just under 5:30 to play, Cupito hit Payne for another 21-yarder that cut the deficit to 28-14.
The Gophers recovered the onside kick, but Cupito's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 7 was incomplete, and Michigan closed it out on the ground.
"It was frustrating," Cupito said. "But we just have to play that way every week and we'll be all right."
It was over when... Michigan jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter. The Wolverines kept Minnesota at bay for the rest of the game.
Gameball goes to... Chad Henne, who had a big night with 3 TDs and 291 yards. He was helped by Mike Hart, Mario Manningham and junior WR Adrian Arrington.
Stat of the game... 10-of-15: The Wolverines made plays when it mattered, converting 10 of 15 third-down tries, as well as their lone fourth-down attempt.