ANN ARBOR - There were many areas to blame yesterday after 21st-ranked Michigan's stunning 23-20 home loss to Minnesota, which turned a highly improbable situation into a game-winning field goal.
For starters, the Wolverines' inconsistent offense sputtered again, generating just 249 total yards on 63 plays against a Golden Gopher defense that was torched for 44 points in last week's loss at Penn State.
Twice Michigan saw promising drives stall and settled for field goals. Two other times Garrett Rivas missed field goals (from 42 and 34 yards).
In fact, the Wolverines' only two touchdowns had little to do with the offensive unit. The first came after Minnesota back Laurence Maroney lost a fumble at the Minnesota 23, the other on Steve Breaston's 95-yard kickoff return.
For the first time in his career, sophomore quarterback Chad Henne (14-of-29, 155 yards, three sacks) failed to throw a TD pass.
"We had a lot of opportunities we didn't take advantage of," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "We didn't block 'em well up front, I don't think we protected the quarterback very well, we dropped too many passes and we had some open people that we missed. And, of course, we missed two field goals.
"You name it, we need to work on it."
The Michigan defense yielded 403 yards (264 rushing) on 80 plays, and eventually was burned for a big play at the worst possible time. Gary Russell's pivotal 61-yard run with 1:27 remaining - setting up Minnesota's winning field goal - represented nearly half of his total 128 rushing total on 18 carries, with none of his other runs going for more than nine yards.
"We were in what we call backer support where that ball should be turned in by our outside backer," Carr said. "From my vantage point, it looked like the ball got outside of him, and then we didn't get the rotation we needed."
BARRINGER HURT: Former Scott standout Willis Barringer, who has started all six games for Michigan at safety, left the game 1:22 into the third quarter with an undisclosed left leg injury.
He did not return and was carted to the locker room early in the fourth quarter after receiving treatment on the bench.
Barringer had five tackles before he exited, included one that forced a Laurence Maroney fumble and led to Michigan's first touchdown 3:10 before halftime.
HOME WOES: Michigan has lost two home games for the first time since 1994, when they dropped three at Michigan Stadium - to Colorado, Penn State and Wisconsin. Also, this is the first time the Wolverines opened 3-3 since 1990, when they closed with six straight wins under coach Gary Moeller. UM has not had a losing season since 1967 (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten), the year before Bo Schembechler took over as coach, and its last non-winning year was 1984, when Schembechler's team ended 6-6 overall.
BREASTON IS NINTH: Steve Breaston's 95-yard kickoff return TD in the third quarter was the ninth in Michigan history, and the first since Seth Smith took one back 100 yards against Wisconsin here on Oct. 29, 1994.
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