Maybe the NFL is like the Supreme Court. Rulings are followed as precedent by lower courts -- or the NCAA.
That's how it seemed to Gopher Troy Stoudermire, who believed he intercepted a Michigan pass late in the third quarter, only to have the play ruled a completion to receiver Ray Roundtree.
The play appeared reminiscent of Seattle's controversial Hail Mary win over Green Bay in September, when Seahawks receiver Golden Tate was ruled to have made a simultaneous catch with Packers safety M.D. Jennings on the final play.
This wasn't as dramatic. But Stoudermire sounded a lot like Jennings.
"We both went up for it, and I felt like I got most of the ball," the senior cornerback said of Devin Gardner's 47-yard fourth-quarter pass to Roundtree at the Minnesota 3. "When we came down, I saw his hand try to grab the ball away from me, so I punched the ball out."
The ball rolled free, but an official standing over the pair ruled that Roundtree had possession of the ball as they hit the ground, giving the Wolverines the ball just short of the end zone.
"They gave him the catch," Stoudermire deadpanned, "so I guess he caught the ball."
Gophers coach Jerry Kill declined to discuss the officiating after the game. He had been furious with the crew even before that play, and screamed at length at three different officials over a pass-interference penalty against Martez Shabazz in the end zone, which set up Michigan's second score.
Denard Robinson's absence was the one that got national attention Saturday, but Kill pointed out that the Gophers were missing a critical part of their offense, too. Junior receiver A.J. Barker, whose 30 catches and seven touchdowns are easily the Gophers' most, dressed and tried to warm up, but informed Kill that his right ankle was still bothering him. "He wasn't full speed. I asked him if he thought he could play, but he wasn't 100 percent. He was honest about it," said Kill, who held Barker out of practice until a light workout on Thursday. "We've got to get him healed up. His health is a lot more important than anything. We've got three games left; we don't need him banged up."
The loss kept the Gophers from clinching a chance to play in their first bowl game since 2009, while Michigan remained tied atop the Legends Division lead with Nebraska after the Cornhuskers' last-second rally over Michigan State. Nebraska holds the tiebreaker. Minnesota, meanwhile, gets its best chance to lock up a bowl game next week at Illinois. The Illini fell to 0-5 in the conference on Saturday and have lost two consecutive games to the Gophers. "All we need is one more win," senior MarQueis Gray said. "I want to get one more win -- and then more wins, so we get a chance to go to a better bowl."
• Michigan junior Will Hagerup is the Big Ten's top punter statistically, but he shanked a pair of kicks Saturday, one travelled 22 yards, another 26. Those two punts, an interception by Gopher safety Cedric Thompson, and a 45-yard kickoff return by K.J. Maye are the reasons the Gophers enjoyed an advantage in field position. Minnesota's average drive began on its 37-yard line, Michigan's at its 26.
• Stoudermire returned three kickoffs for a total of 71 yards, giving him 3,359 kick-return yards for his career. That leaves him 158 yards shy of the NCAA record of 3,517 yards, set by Tyron Carrier of Houston last year.
• The Gophers sacked Gardner three times, giving them 19 to match their 2011 sack total.