The Gophers prepared all week to face Denard Robinson. But they don't seem to mind that they don't get to.
Michigan's dynamic quarterback, who suffered nerve damage to his throwing elbow last week in Nebraska, is watching from the sidelines Saturday as junior Devin Gardner runs the offense in his place. And without the Big Ten's third-leading rusher, the Wolverines are having difficulty moving the football, finishing the first half with a 14-7 lead over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium.
After a scoreless first quarter -- the Wolverines' ninth straight without a touchdown -- Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson hit tight end John Rabe on a 10-yard crossing pattern on the first play of the second quarter, giving Minnesota its first lead against the Wolverines since the second quarter of their meeting in 2007. It was also the Gophers' first offensive touchdown against Michigan since 2006, five meetings ago.
But Gardner responded by turning a broken play into a score. The former wide receiver rolled to his right, then scrambled back to his left before spotting junior Drew Dileo alone in the end zone, 45 yards away, Gardner's deep throw got to Dileo just before Minnesota safety Derrick Wells, and the touchdown tied the score.
And just before halftime, Gardner led a 90-yard coring drive that had a controversial finish. On third and goal from the Gophers' 4, tight end Devin Funchess and cornerback Martez Shabazz tried to catch a fade pass in the right corner of the end zone. The ball fell incomplete, but Shabazz was called for pass interference, and Gophers coach Jerry Kill complained vociferously to three different officials. Given a first down on the penalty, the Wolverines scored on the next play, with running back Thomas Rawls stretching into the end zone from two yards out, putting Michigan ahead with 55 seconds left in the half.
The Gophers tried to respond, but their drive stalled at the 37, and Jordan Wettstein missed a 55-yard field-goal attempt as the half ended.
Both teams started slowly; the Gophers punted away three first-half possessions and lost another one when a fourth-and-1 plunge at midfield came up just short. The Wolverines, who gained only nine first-quarter yards, punted twice, and Gardner threw an interception to Gopher safety Cedric Thompson.