2011 Michigan Wolverines Football
Michigan Wolverines @ Illinois Fighting Illini Football Recap
Michigan 31, Illinois 14
Yes, it’s entirely true that the Big Ten Conference is down this year. The league lacks heft and stature to a considerable degree, far more than in recent years. Yet, don’t let those realities diminish what Brady Hoke is doing to restore the luster of a brand-name college football program. The work Hoke is producing as the first-year head coach of the Michigan Wolverines is giving the rest of the Big Ten every indication that the Maize and Blue will be heard from in the next few years.
Moreover, the men of Michigan might still be heard from in this season as well.
Michigan improved to 8-2 with an impressive victory over the Fighting Illini in Champaign on Saturday. The victory keeps the U of M in the hunt for the Legends Division title, but far more importantly, it allows the Wolverines to dream of a 10-2 season, which would put them in the running for an at-large BCS bowl bid, most likely the Fiesta and possibly the Sugar. The mere fact that such a prize is even a possibility at this point of the 2011 season is testament enough to the quality of Hoke, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and the rest of a Michigan coaching staff that has shored up a program’s weaknesses, the glaring deficiencies which existed under former coach Rich Rodriguez. Michigan is a flawed team this year, but the Wolverines’ ability to climb so far in such a short period of time shows that Hoke has his program headed in one direction: upward.
Michigan's defense held Illinois to 214 total yards, and did not allow the Illini to cross midfield until late in the third quarter. The Illini had just 30 yards of total offense in the first half.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who ran for two first-half touchdowns, left the game with a minor injury after taking a big hit in the third quarter. Freshman Devin Gardner took over, and threw a key 27-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms that gave Michigan a 24-7 lead with 9:58 left in the fourth.
Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for a career-high 192 yards for the Wolverines. The sophomore, who has 760 yards and six touchdowns in his short career at Michigan, has run for 420 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games.
Illinois' defense kept it in the game long enough to close the deficit to 17-7 on Nathan Scheelhaase's 13-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. The Illini quickly stopped the Wolverines on their ensuing possession, but Scheelhaase was picked off by J.T. Floyd, who returned the interception 43 yards to the Illinois 22. Three plays later, on a crucial 3rd-and-15, Gardner found Odoms to put the Wolverines back up by 17.
The Illini answered with an 80-yard drive and a one-yard Jason Ford touchdown run to make it 24-14, but could not recover an onside kick.
Scheelhaase finished 16-of-31 for 170 yards and an interception. Star receiver A.J. Jenkins caught eight passes for 103 yards. It was Jenkins' fifth 100-yard game of the season.
By: Matt Zemek