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MINNEAPOLIS — Michigan football had to answer plenty of questions entering 2020.
Then the Wolverines got off to the worst possible start in Saturday's season opener at Minnesota.
One had to wonder if Michigan was on its way to another flat road performance.
Then Michigan picked itself off the mat — and proceeded to dominate the Golden Gophers in an impressive first-half performance.
The Wolverines entered halftime with a 35-17 lead on the back of the run game and some timely plays from the defense. Here are a few takeaways:
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Offense coalesces quickly
The Wolverines started a new quarterback in Joe Milton and had four new starters along the offensive line. So given that context, the first half went about as smoothly as Michigan could've asked for. The Wolverines dominated the point of attack, with 17 rushes for 142 yards and three touchdowns. That included a 70-yard touchdown run from Zach Charbonnet on the first play of Michigan's second possession.
Jalen Mayfield and Andrew Stueber created movement on the right side of the line. Andrew Vastardis pulled on a key 23-yard run from Joe Milton on 3rd-and-2. Chuck Filiaga had some key blocks. The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, and that helped Michigan's backs — and Milton — break loose for chunk yardage.
Defense makes enough stops
There's something about Michigan's 'viper' linebackers and playing Minnesota. In 2017, the last time these teams played, Khaleke Hudson had 15 tackles, eight for loss, three sacks and one forced fumble. And Hudson's successor, Michael Barrett, made big plays against the Gophers, too.
On the game's fourth possession, Barrett blitzed off the edge to sack quarterback Tanner Morgan and force a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by defensive tackle Donovan Jeter. The defense also got a key third-down sack from linebacker Cam McGrone and defensive tackle Julius Welschof.
Minnesota did put together consecutive drives of 79 and 75 yards that totaled 10 points. But Michigan got enough stops to enter halftime with a comfortable lead.
Milton looks poised
Everyone wondered how Joe Milton would do in his first game as the starting quarterback. Well, he didn't have to do much because of the success of the run game — but he played well, completing 9-of-14 passes for 100 yards, one touchdown and six carries for 41 yards.
Milton moved the chains on third down and hit open receivers. He also flashed some of the arm strength that everyone raves about, firing an 11-yard out to Mike Sainristil in the second quarter. He was steady, made the plays that were available and didn't make costly mistakes. The Wolverines will surely take that.
Both teams struggling on special teams
Michigan was the benefactor of a sloppy Minnesota special teams unit that gifted free yardage on kickoffs and punts. But the Wolverines also made some costly mistakes, too. Their first punt was blocked, giving Minnesota the ball on Michigan's 17. The Gophers capitalized and scored soon after. Kicker Jake Moody also missed a 38-yard field goal and a 48-yarder to end the half.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan football dominating Minnesota: 1st-half observations