Like the title of this post? Me too. Here's the highlights from this weekend in Champaign.
Obviously, such a great feeling to head out on the road in November and come home with our 8th win of the season. Especially heading into these last two huge games at home, we needed some momentum. Illinois is good in some areas, bad in others, but so is pretty much every other B1G team.
This game took off fast for the Wolverines. We got out to a great start and the defense played outstanding in the first half. The OL blocked great, getting Fitz some big yards early...what a start to the game with a 65 yard run to set up a touchdown run by Denard three plays later. I think that drive marked the 6th opening drive touchdown in the last 7 games for our offense.
Denard showed a little bit of his old self at the start, but he's clearly still not the Denard of old. I like that Borges kept him in the gun for almost every snap, and Devin didn't come into the game until Denard went out with an injury in the second half. What we heard after the game was that Denard suffered a wrist injury, but could have come back in if needed. But with Devin coming in and looking really good, especially with that nice throw to Odoms for the touchdown that really put it out of reach.
How about some bullets to break it down better?
What I liked:
• The defense. They really came to play. From the very start of the game, Illinois had no chance to move the ball and get a rhythm. The line played very well. Mike Martin was blowing up 3rd and short plays up the middle. And Ryan Van Bergen had maybe his best game with 2.5 sacks.
• Any questions about how JT Floyd can cover a standout WR were answered. He shut down Jenkins, even though he still had 8 grabs for over 100 yards, he never really hurt us. He along with Countess looked great on the corners. There were some suspect PI calls, some of which weren't called as well, so I guess it's a draw. His INT was a think of beauty.
• Fitzgerald Toussaint had a career day with 192 rushing yards on 27 carries and 1 touchdown. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry. No question, Michigan now has a dependable feature back for the first time in a few seasons. His success was a directly related to the blocking by the OL. They did a great job against a good Illinois DL making holes and giving Fitz some creases to hit. Molk was a beast in this game.
• When Denard started the game, he looked loose and much more comfortable than he's looked on the road in a while. It was refreshing to see. He did struggle later in the game, but it was nice to see him show that he's still Denard at the beginning.
• How awesome is Jake Ryan? What a career he is already off to at Michigan. He, Martin, Van Bergan and Kovacs are the personification of what this defense is all about. Toughness and playing smart.
• We got the win. What's not to like about that?
What I didn't like:
• Well, turnovers. For how pleased I was at the start of the game to see Denard play more like his old self, he turned into a turnover machine after that. His INT to end the half doesn't really count, but the floater he threw up on the play where he hit his wrist on an Illini helmet that was dropped should have been a pick.
• Lack of redzone scoring in the 2nd quarter. We had a few great opportunities to put this game out of reach early and couldn't capitalize. I think we were 2 for 5 in the first half in redzone scoring opportunities. Not acceptable. This game could have been 28-0 at the half, and should have been at least 24-0.
Like I said before, we got the win. We're 8-2 going into a huge home stand against Nebraska and Ohio State. So I'm not going to talk too much about what we did wrong. A 31-14 win on the road in November against a mediocre team, I'll take it. I was saying before the game that this is the kind of game that Michigan typically loses lately, so hard to be too critical.
This win really sets up next week against Nebraska at home. Two teams sitting at 8-2 coming off big road wins. The Huskers first trip to the Big House. I'm getting fired up already. This game is going to be huge...and the crowd should be huge to match. I expect the Big House to be rocking. I just hope the students can show up before 12:30.
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