So much for tough Big Ten conference openers.
Michigan football coach Brady Hoke warned his team all week that with the nonconference season over, things will get tough when the league season opened Saturday with Minnesota coming to town.
It was Michigan 58, Minnesota 0 and it was a train wreck for the non-so-Golden Gophers.
It was Michigan’s first shutout since a 38-0 win over Notre Dame in 2007 and the biggest win ever Minnesota in a series that began in the 1800s. The teams played for college football’s oldest trophy, the Little Brown Jug, that dates back to 1903 and Michigan legend Fritz Crisler.
Michigan scored the first six times it had the football on Saturday in front of 111,106 at the Big House and led 38-0 at halftime. Michigan, 5-0 and ranked No. 19, had 580 total yards of offense to just 177 for Minnesota, 1-4.
For the third straight game, Michigan had more than 300 yards rushing, finishing with 363. Fitzgerald Toussaint had a game-high 108 yards on the ground and he also scored on a one-yard run.
Five different tailbacks ran for Michigan, and 71 players got into action for the Wolverines. Vince Smith made the biggest mark. The junior from Florida ran for a three-yard touchdown, threw a 17-yard option touchdown pass to Drew Dileo and caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Denard Robinson, all in the first half for the Wolverines.
“That’s the first time I threw a pass since high school,” Smith said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”
In a crowded field of runners for Michigan, Smith is emerging as the big man, behind quarterback Robinson, of course, who came into the game as one of the nation’s top rushers.
Hoke said he didn’t think Michigan could win a league championship if Robinson continued to be Michigan’s top and only dominant force on the ground.
Robinson ran for only 51 yards, and a touchdown, but “Shoelace” was, as usual, all smiles after the game.
Robinson had been getting some heat for his inconsistent passing performances this season but on Saturday, he completed his first 11 passes and finished 15 of 19 for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Did he feel any pressure or urgency to improve the passing game?
“Not really,” he said. “I was just having fun out there.”
“I know he was thinking about it because everyone talks about his passing (problems),” said Hoke. “But he didn’t hear it from us (coaches). We like him throwing the football. He got his feet set and threw well.”
Robinson, who does not have cable television said he didn’t hear the criticism.
‘I don’t read you guys,” he said to the media at a post-game press conference.
Robinson shared some time at quarterback Saturday with sophomore Devin Gardner, who hit 2-of-5 passes in the contest. Robinson split out at halfback for a few series with Gardner at quarterback.
“That’s a formation we’ve been working on since last April,” Hoke said.
Minnesota’s top quarterback, MarQueis Gray, was unable to play because of a foot injury and freshman Max Shortell replaced him and struggled. It was a tough week for the Gophers as head coach Jerry Kill suffered from a seizure after last week’s loss to North Dakota State.
“Michigan was just bigger and stronger than we were,” Kill said.
After the game, Michigan’s Ryan Van Bergen held the Little Brown Jug trophy as the Wolverines celebrated.
Hoke conceded it was the best game Michigan has played so far this year.
“That’s our goal, to play better each game,” he said. “But it was far from the perfect game. We still have a lot of work to do.”
We’ve heard that before, but Hoke is right. Michigan hits the road for the first time this year next Saturday when the Wolverines travel to Northwestern for a 7 p.m. game Saturday in a contest that will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
For more info: mgoblue, espn, annarbor.com