lives here [slideshow].
First off, kudos to the 110,000+ (way less, actually, I'm sure) who made the trip to Ann Arbor on Saturday to witness this game in person. It was a miserable weather day in the Big House. Cold, windy, wet. If you stayed til the end of the game, you were in the minority.
But for those who did come to the game, you witnessed Michigan's most convincing win of the season so far. They dominated a bad Illinois team in every aspect of the game. There was simply nothing that Illinois could do well against this Michigan defense, which ranks #2 nationally in pass defense this week!
Highlights of the game for me:
• Jake Ryan was in "manster" mode. After watching this young man for a season and a half, I'm starting to think this is just how he plays the game. Manster is his normal setting. Both Illini QBs and their RBs had their hands full all day with Ryan. Hats off to Demens too, he had a fun day out there.
• For a second week in a row, we saw Denard be Denard. Whatever notes Borges took during the bye week while watching endless game films, it's paid off. Denard is running plays that suit him. And from what I can tell, he isn't being asked to do anything he can't do very well (ie pocket passing)...mostly because he hasn't needed to. The bubble screen to Gallon on the first drive was a beauty, thanks in large part to Lewan and Schofield hustling downfield to block some DBs.
When Denard went down, I thought Bellomy came in and did a respectable job considering the circumstances. It was a wet ball, but he put it where it needed to be, he just needs the receivers to catch it. Treezy dropped a sure catch on 3rd down which surely would have extended Bellomy's 2nd drive.
• The "non-Denard running game" turned into "running back by committee" on Saturday. Fitz, Rawls and Justice Hayes all saw decent time toting the rock around. I was happy to see Fitz running more downhill, with his shoulders more square to the line of scrimmage. This is his sweet-spot. I was really happy to see Rawls and Hayes get 9 and 10 carries respectively. Both guys averaged 6+ yards per carry, Rawls actually averaged 10 thanks to a long 63 yard touchdown in the 4th quarter.
Vincent Smith dressed but did not play, and Hopkins was not on the dress list.
• The defense as a whole never let up. When the game was 10-0 early on, Illinois is just the type of team that can do something nutty that ends up working and they're right back in it. When Denard got hurt and Illinois stopped Michigan at the goal line, I felt a slight momentum shift. But Michigan's D kept the inept Illini offense on lockdown. It was never going to be a close game.
The secondary never really was tested thanks to a constant pass rush that disrupted Illinois all day. From what I'm seeing around the league, Michigan could very well could have the best defense in the Big Ten this year. Every championship team Michigan has had in recent memory has had a top ranked defense. 2012 seems to be no different.
Reaction from the Michigan football blogosphere:
Ryan wasn't the only standout, as seven Wolverines tallied tackles for loss, neither Illini quarterback could find an open receiver, and Greg Mattison's blitzes hit home time and again. Two years ago, Michigan faced this same Illinois squad—with the same starting quarterback, even—and gave up 561 yards and 65 points. Against this defense, the Illini would need almost a full 17 quarters to rack up that same yardage; no matter how long they went, they'd obviously never reach that point total.Touch the Banner:
Michigan has made a commitment to running the ball the last couple games, rather than trying to have Robinson throw for the win. I know Robinson has had longer runs and more important runs, but his 49-yard touchdown in this game might have been his single greatest individual effort. He made a couple separate jump cuts before bursting out to the left and outrunning the defense.Maize & Brew:
The Wolverines aren't your father's Michigan team, but they're close. Michigan is going to win games by running the ball out of the shotgun with Robinson while playing suffocating defense. Why is this a positive? Because the entire team is in a united state, from the coordinators down. Greg Mattison has his boys playing fast and Al Borges knows the limitations of his offense, and when all of the parts are in motion this team will be hard to beat.MVictors:
Damn I want one of those sweaters. (And BTW they had me well before they formed the human victory cigar):
Hoover Street Rag:
I don't know that you can call 45-0 "workmanlike" because there were a lot of exciting plays in the game, three scoring plays of 49+ yards will do that, but the whole game just felt like "This is an opponent on our schedule. Let's go out and do what we did in practice and everything will be A-OK." Denard continued to look like the mature senior quarterback we wanted him to be (7 completions on just 11 passes in a rainy day in Ann Arbor when you didn't really need to do much more helps the cause.) Denard's 33 yard run in the second quarter when he returned to the game after tweaking his pinky is a perfect example. Younger Denard would have tried to make the end zone, get the last ten yards and get the touchdown. Instead, Denard ran out of bounds, took the first down and then two plays later ran it in for six yards for the TD. Solid positive decision making.More Illinois content from me: