Many said this was a classic look ahead game as Michigan has Michigan State coming to town next weekend, but Brady Hoke would have none of that. Michigan came to play and showed that it is nowhere near dead, cruising to a dominant win over Illinois, 45-0.
Denard Robinson eclipsed another milestone as he surpassed 10,000 total yards for his career. In the process he became only the fourth quarterback to rush for over 4,000 yards and his two rushing touchdowns tied him with Wolverine legend Mike Hart for fourth on Michigan’s all-time rushing TD list with 41.
Michigan dominated from start to finish on both sides of the ball putting up 527 total yards while holding the Illini to just 134. Denard passed for two touchdowns, the first a 71-yard bubble screen to Jeremy Gallon, and the other a beautifully lofted pass to Devin Funchess in the back of the end zone.
He gave Wolverine nation a scare early on as he clutched his throwing hand after being tackled near the goal line. It looked to be serious, but after just over a series on the sideline, Denard came back in and showed no ill effects of the injury. After the game, both he and Hoke called it just a “boo boo.”
The Illini, however, were without their starting quarterback for most of the game. Nathan Scheelhaase was knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion in the second quarter. Backup Reilly O’Toole couldn’t get anything going and it was late in the second half before Illinois even made it past the Michigan 32 yard line.
Despite the end result, Illinois was still in the game for a while, only down 17-0 at the half. But Denard shut the door early in the second half with yet another highlight reel long run from 49 yards. On Illinois’ first possession of the second half linebacker Kenny Demens picked off a pass which led to the Funchess touchdown. And just like that Michigan was up 31-0 with over 10 minutes to go in the third.
Thomas Rawls saw some carries throughout the game and continues to make the most of his limited opportunities. He finished with nine carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. His score came on a 63-yard run in which he showed he is way more than just a ‘run you over’ kind of guy. He showed good footwork, and while he may not have elite speed he had more than enough to outrun the Illini defense.
Fitz Toussaint made some strides in the run game rushing for 62 yards on 18 carries but is still far from the player he was last season. Going forward, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rawls get more touches and Fitz get fewer.
Al Borges continues to pare down his play calling to suit this team, and it has worked the past two weeks as Michigan has run for just under 330 yards per game and thrown the ball only 27 times total. The run game is the strength of this team and hopefully we continue to see more of it as the Big Ten season wears on. Denard is a capable passer when he sets his feet and isn’t called upon to win the game with his arm.
The defense completely shut down the Illini – not that Illinois was any good – but Michigan showed who was boss all day long. Jake Ryan continues to be a force off the edge and led the team in tackles with 11 and tackles for loss with 3.5.
Michigan has quieted its critics with back to back dominating outings. The loss to Alabama seems like ages ago, and the debacle against Notre Dame no longer matters. Michigan sits 4-2 (2-0 in the Big Ten) and in control of its own destiny in the Legends division.
Next week, the Wolverines welcome intrastate rival Michigan State into Ann Arbor in what should be a great game. MSU has struggled mightily this season and already has two losses in the conference. Despite their struggles Sparty will come to play and look to make it five in a row over Big Brother. Team 132 exorcised some demons last season as it finally beat Ohio State, and I expect Team 133 to do the same against Michigan State.
Throw the records out the door and buckle up, as this one is gonna get rough. In the end, I think Michigan is the better team and there is a rather bitter taste still in their mouths after losing to Little Brother four straight years. Michigan was a favorite to win the Big Ten coming into the season and after October 20th, there will be no doubt.