MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Michigan has yet to be tested this season and might not find a tough game for another month.
The Wolverines are focused on their own excellence — and having a fun time doing it.
Will Johnson returned an interception 36 yards for a score on Minnesota’s second snap, a spark the second-ranked Wolverines kept from start to finish in a 52-10 win over the Gophers on Saturday night.
“Just grateful for the way the guys go about their business,” coach Jim Harbaugh said.
J.J. McCarthy completed 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and had a career-high two rushing touchdowns to help Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) stretch its conference winning streak to 17 for the second-longest in program history.
“They’re one of the deepest teams, one of the best teams, one of the biggest teams, fastest teams, strongest teams, and they do not make mistakes,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “They are truly like a boa constrictor, and they do not beat themselves.”
Michigan beat Minnesota on the road for the 18th straight time. The Wolverines have beaten the Gophers (3-3, 1-2) for the Little Brown Jug trophy 43 times in their last 47 matchups.
“It was just an ultimate team win, and at the end of the day that’s the only thing we can ask for,” McCarthy said.
Keon Sabb had a 28-yard touchdown return of an interception in the third quarter, giving the Wolverines a pair of pick-6s in a game for the first time since 2017 against Cincinnati. Sabb’s leaping grab of a third down throw by Athan Kaliakmanis gave Michigan a 45-10 lead that earned McCarthy the rest of the game off while Jack Tuttle and Jayden Denegal split the fourth quarter.
Kaliakmanis, a sophomore in his first season as the full-time starter, went 5 for 16 for 52 yards including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Jackson late in the second quarter. Michigan’s defense was overwhelming, starting from the second play when he threw to Jackson near the sideline.
The ball sailed high enough for Johnson to break on it and race untouched into the end zone. Even Harbaugh joined the group photo pose by the defense on the sideline afterward, and the smiles stayed with the Wolverines the rest of the night.
This was Michigan’s largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since beating Rutgers 52-0 in 2019. Minnesota’s last loss this big was 52-10 to Ohio State in 2010.
Blake Corum had 69 rushing yards and a score on a season-low nine carries, Leon Franklin added a late rushing touchdown and Michigan outgained Minnesota 432-169 in total yards. The Wolverines topped the 30-point mark for a program-record ninth straight game, according to Sportradar.
The Wolverines — who lead the FBS with an average of 6.7 points allowed per game — let an opponent hit double digits for the first time this year. Defensive tackle Mason Graham returned from a two-game absence with a heavily wrapped left hand after surgery and had a team-high six tackles — two for loss with one sack.
“Just been hungry to get back out on the field with my guys,” Graham said.
The Gophers had 13 plays in the third quarter that netted 7 yards. The five completions were the fewest Michigan has allowed in a game since Illinois had four in 2016.
“It felt like we were behind the chains the entire game,” Fleck said.
Michigan leads the series 77-25-3. The last time Minnesota won at home was in 1977. The Gophers won at Michigan in 1986, when the Wolverines were also ranked No. 2 and quarterbacked by Harbaugh.
Michigan’s 17-game conference winning streak, which excludes the Big Ten championship game last year, trails only a 19-game run from 1990-1992. Ohio State has the three longest Big Ten winning streaks in league history, including the 30-game record-setter from 2012-2015. The last conference loss for the Wolverines was to Michigan State on Oct. 30, 2021.
No. 1 Georgia’s blowout of No. 20 Kentucky will solidify the Bulldogs in the top spot in the next AP rankings. With No. 3 Texas losing to No. 12 Oklahoma, Michigan ought to be further entrenched at No. 2.
Michigan: McCarthy’s goal-to-go touchdown runs sure gave future opponents more to think about. He lowered a shoulder to run through a defender on first down for a 5-yard score in the second quarter and used a stiff-arm on second down to complete a 7-yard score in the third quarter.
“Just in total control out there, whether it’s the protections, the plays,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just got a great command of the offense.”
Minnesota: With Big Ten rushing leader Darius Taylor out with an injury for the second straight game, the Gophers were simply too short on skill to keep up with the Wolverines.
Michigan: Hosts Indiana next Saturday.
Minnesota: Visits Iowa on Oct. 21.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll