Monday, October 15, 2012

Recap: Illinois

For the second straight week, Michigan has blown their Big Ten opponent out of the water and made it look rather easy. Last week was the Boilermakers; this week was the Illini. It was just a different chapter in the same book.

The first thing I really noticed on Saturday was Michigan's run by committee style of rushing attack. It actually seemed to be working for the Wolverines. And, although it is not what Al Borges dreams of when he sleeps at night, you have to go with what is working.

Even Fitz Toussaint, a non factor in most games this season, made some noise from the backfield and definitely looked more crisp against Illinois. I thought he was doing too much dancing around previously, but I did not see a whole lot of that on Saturday.

Thomas Rawls continued to make his case to get some more playing time with a great outing, 90 yards on 9 carries with 1 TD. I personally think it's only a matter of time before he becomes the starter.

Even Justice Hayes saw quite a bit of action and made the most of it, running for 66 yards on 10 carries. Hayes saw that much time because Vincent Smith was unavailable with a minor hamstring injury.

Switching gears to defense, this had to have been the most complete game by a Michigan defense I've seen in a long time. Whether he is struggling or not, going up against a dual threat quarterback like Nathan Scheelhaase is never easy, but Greg Mattison had his crew ready.

Get this: Illinois only threw for 29 yards. 29! That's all. And that performance was enough to bump the pass defense up to second in the nation (of course trailing Alabama). It was obvious last year that the secondary had made some lengthy strides, but this is starting to get plain ridiculous. J.T. Floyd keeps stepping up, Jordan Kovacs continues to make plays on a bad knee. The whole secondary is doing a great job, and they'll need to keep it up as the road down conference play continues.

In my preview for this game, I mentioned that the Wolverine front needed to get to Scheelhaase and force him into some mistakes. After all, he had been struggling all season, and there is no better way to welcome an opposing quarterback to the Big House than by rattling his cage. It didn't force him into huge mistakes, but the pressure applied by Michigan's front was felt in the backfield and altered each play just enough to be affective.

The linebacker position continued to keep its reputation up for the second week in a row as Kenny Demens picked off Scheelhaase and returned it 18 yards, giving Denard Robinson and company good field position. The linebackers need to continue this type of play down the stretch. Good things happen when they have it rolling.

As for Denard Robinson, it was almost a carbon copy of what we saw last week against Purdue. And I know I wouldn't mind seeing it duplicated for the rest of the season.

Robinson only had 11 pass attempts this game, completing 7 of them and not throwing an INT. That's the important part: no turnovers. He also had 11 rushing attempts for 128 yards. Combined, Robinson accounted for 4 Michigan TDs.

That was the exact performance I wanted to see from Denard against Illinois. Keep his passing attempts to a minimum, and let his legs go to work. Credit Al Borges for the play calling and setting up number 16 for monster success in consecutive weeks. It is also worth noting that his 7 completions were to 7 different receivers. Talk about sharing the ball.

For Illinois, they really only came into the Big House with hopes of being competitive and trying to find something to build off of on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately for the Illini, they were not competitive and did not find something to build off of. It was a very frustrating game for the visitors, who are now 0-3 in the Big Ten.

Tyler's Prediction Record: 6-0

That's right; I'm perfect thus far.

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