The following is the next in a series of fictional game stories predicting the outcome of Michigan’s 2017 football season.
The Jug Stays
Michigan overwhelms Golden Gophers
Ann Arbor, Mich. – The records of the two teams coming in said they were pretty evenly matched. But the outcome on the scoreboard on Saturday said otherwise.
The eighth-ranked Wolverines were simply too much for visiting Minnesota, and improved to 8-1 on the season with a 38-17 victory at Michigan Stadium. The win means college football’s most famous rivalry trophy – “the little brown jug” – remains in Schembechler Hall for the time being.
“Very pleased with the overall effort,” Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We beat a good football team today, and improved as a football team in the process.”
Michigan, which still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten East, was led by a balanced offense that finished with over 200 yards passing and rushing.
“Our offensive line just keeps getting better,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said. “Without them, nothing else would be possible. They’re the reason we’re able to execute like this.”
Indeed, it was almost a perfect game for that unit. The Golden Gophers had no sacks or tackles-for-loss on defense.
“That’s the best football team we’ve played so far this season,” said Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck, whose team fell to 6-3. “Also the most physical team we’ve played as well, and those two things probably aren’t coincidental.”
Oddly enough, Minnesota actually scored first. The Gophers went 80 yards on 11 plays for an impressive opening drive touchdown. But it was all Michigan after that.
The Wolverines scored the next 31 points in a row. Minnesota’s defense was determined not to surrender any big plays, so Michigan’s offense played with efficiency and dominated time of possession. In fact, the Wolverines doubled Minnesota in plays from scrimmage.
Of course, the Michigan defense had something to do with that. At one point it forced four straight three-and-outs for the Minnesota offense, which didn’t score again until kicking a field goal with just over 6 minutes left in the game. The Gophers then recovered the onside kick to set up the final touchdown in the waning moments.
Since the two teams aren’t scheduled to meet again until at least 2020, Fleck said Minnesota has some time to stew about reclaiming the jug.
“Obviously this is a benchmark game for our program and historically in our conference,” Fleck said. “We came up short today, but we’ll keep rowing the boat and make sure we’re ready for whenever we play again. For now, though, our focus is on finishing strong in our division.”
The Wolverines next begin a grueling gauntlet to close out the campaign, starting with the first of consecutive road games at Maryland. Minnesota will attempt to bounce back against Nebraska at home.