Wolverines Start Slow But Keep The Little Brown Jug

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan rested its best players against Minnesota.
Early on, it looked like missing Mike Hart and Chad Henne might spoil the 19th-ranked Wolverines' turnaround.
Mario Manningham had five receptions for a career-high 162 yards and a victory-sealing touchdown early in the fourth quarter, helping Michigan pull away with a 34-10 win over Minnesota on Saturday to retain the Little Brown Jug trophy.
Without Hart and Henne, Michigan trailed 10-0 early in the second quarter and didn't lead by more than a score until late in the third.
But the Wolverines (7-2, 5-0) scored the last 34 points to win their seventh straight since opening the season being stunned by second-tier Appalachian State and getting routed by Oregon.
"Once we got settled in, we did great," standout offensive tackle Jake Long said. "Now, we have to make sure we start and finish games strong because we've got some big games coming up."
Hart has missed 2 1/2 games since appearing to injure his right ankle. Henne was on and off the field with a shoulder injury in last week's win at Illinois.
Michigan seemed to keep both off the field against the lowly Golden Gophers to get them healthier for the final three games of the regular season: at Michigan State, at Wisconsin and against top-ranked Ohio State.
"We wanted to take advantage of that," Gophers safety Dom Barber said. "But their quarterback and their backs stepped up, played well and got the job done."
Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr is optimistic Hart and Henne will play against the Spartans. The senior stars are even more confident.
"Of course," Hart replied when asked if he'll be ready to play against Michigan State.
"I'll be back next week," Henne said.
The Gophers (1-8, 0-5) have lost eight of their first nine games for the first time in 15 years. They are in danger of winning only one game for the first time since 1983.
Minnesota had a slew of freshmen playing significant roles, including eight who were in high school last year.
"Those young freshmen that played today got a lot of life lessons," first-year coach Tim Brewster said. "We've got a lot of young kids playing a lot of football."
The Wolverines were counting on inexperienced players, too, at running back and quarterback.
Sophomores Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown, Hart's backups, each ran for more than 100 yards and combined for three scores.
Brown replaced Hart in the starting lineup, but Minor became Michigan's featured running back after Brown fumbled on its second drive.
Minor had 21 carries for a career-high 157 yards and his TD with 2:49 left in first half put Michigan ahead 13-10 for its first lead.
Before Brown scored on an 85-yard run for the final score midway through the fourth quarter, he had about half as many carries and one-third as many yards rushing as Minor. Brown finished with 132 yards and two TDs on 13 carries.
"They both showed real signs of progress," Carr said. "We're very pleased. Their confidence is going to grow leaps and bounds."
Freshman Ryan Mallett started for Henne and made up for a fumble and many poor throws and decisions with some perfect passes deep down the field to Manningham.
Mallett hit Manningham in stride on a 48-yard pass on a third down that set up Brown's TD late in the third. He connected with Manningham on a 40-yard score early in the fourth, giving Michigan a 27-10 lead, one play after a QB sneak was good for a first down on fourth-and-1.
Both Mallett and Manningham declined to comment after the game.
Mallett was 11-for-20 for 233 yards, a score and one fumble Barber returned 46 yards for a TD that gave Minnesota a surprising 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"We were ecstatic," linebacker Deon Hightower said. "Guys were making big plays and the place was silent."
But the Gophers struggled to do anything on offense after that point and their defense failed to keep Michigan's offense quiet.
Minnesota's freshman quarterback, Adam Weber, completed 14 of 30 passes for just 99 yards and a fumble.
"He does some good things and he does some things you'd like to take back," Brewster said. "He's growing every day and sometimes that growth is a little painful."
Duane Bennett ran for 106 yards, becoming the first Gopher freshman to surpass the mark since Laurence Maroney in 2003.
Michigan retained the Jug, a trophy dating to 1903, after the Gophers stormed across the field to snatch it two years ago.


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