Outside of a two-possession stretch when Michigan fans held their breath as Denard Robinson was sidelined with a pinky injury, the Wolverines couldn't have made it any easier to look ahead to next week's game against Michigan State, pounding a hapless Illinois squad, 45-0.
If anything, the final score belied Michigan's dominance. The offense moved the ball at will, rushing for 353 yards on 6.9 per carry and adding 174 through the air on just 15 attempts. The defense held the Illini to a mere 134 yards, including an unheard-of 29 yards on 16 passes; while it didn't help matters when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase exited in the second quarter with an upper-body injury, his four yards on six attempts weren't lighting the world on fire.
Seemingly every play called by Al Borges worked as intended, starting with a 71-yard touchdown to Jeremy Gallon on a bubble screen* to open the scoring; Gallon weaved through the Illini defense, helped by stellar downfield blocking, most notably by tight end Mike Kwiatkowski. The next drive stalled near the goal line for a field goal after Denard exited the game with a banged-up pinky; it was the only moment when Michigan fans felt even a hint of concern.
The Wolverines continued to establish their identity as a run-first, run-second outfit on Denard's first possession back in the lineup, gaining all 68 of their yards on the ground en route to a six-yard scramble for Michigan's dreaded wonder. When Robinson opened the second half with a physics-defying 49-yard scamper to paydirt, the rout was on in earnest. Illinois's next possession ended after one play, a Kenny Demens interception of Reilly O'Toole. Three plays later, Devin Funchess hauled in a Robinson lob in the back of the end zone, bringing the score to 31-0 before many fans had returned with their halftime hot chocolates.
On the other side of the ball, Jake Ryan flashed his All-American potential again and again, amassing 11 tackles (7 solo), four TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and a devastating forced fumble as he flushed O'Toole out of the pocket, doubled back, and blindsided him to jar the ball loose. Denard Robinson may have finished with four touchdowns, 159 yards passing, and 128 yards rushing, but Ryan made a legitimate claim for best Wolverine on the field.
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.
Safe to say, times have changed for both programs.
Michigan has found their perfect match at head coach and defensive coordinator. The offense under Al Borges has had their growing pains, but it's clear that they've found a suitable balance since the bye week to maximize Denard's remaining time as a Wolverine.
After the game, the marching band spelled out "Marry Me, Danielle?" as a band member dropped to a knee at midfield. Like everything the Wolverines dialed up on Saturday, the play was a success. On a cold, grey, rainy day in Ann Arbor, only the weather could dampen the spirits of those in Maize and Blue.
*On second look, it wasn't exactly a bubble screen, as Gallon started downfield before stopping and coming back to the line; a very well drawn-up play regardless.
Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post. This link is always here. You never read it. You are bad.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one. Something like… Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Mascots are as much a part of college football as cheerleaders and marching bands. The continued use of numerous Native American tribes as mascots has fallen into disfavor, with many schools, including Illinois, having stopped the use of what have been long-standing symbols of universities across the nation. The NCAA actually bans schools that use mascots they call “hostile and abusive American Indian nicknames” from hosting postseason games and NCAA sponsored tournaments. While I agree these are measures that were long overdue, they just don’t go far enough. ALL MASCOTS MUST BE BANNED!
While the NCAA has virtually eliminated Native American mascots, they’ve done nothing about those that promote the use of banned substances. What about MSU’s steroid enhanced “Sparty” or the “Rainbow Warrior”—an obvious abuser of psychedelics? How are these symbols allowed to remain on the college landscape? Why hasn’t the ASCPA championed the ban of the innumerable animal mascots, from the obviously neglected PSU lion, to the endangered Maryland Terrapin? And then there’s the University of Maine’s “lobster baby” – an actual baby dressed as a lobster and carried around in a cooking pot! Is it animal cruelty or child endangerment?
On the food front, there’s the "Fighting Okra" of Delta State University and the :Fighting Artichoke" of some school in Arizona. The most outrageous food mascot ever could be Endworth College’s "Badnana." This was a banana whose skin was increasingly peeled back during the course of the season, to expose its phallic fruit. (However, the Rhode Island School of Design pushes the anatomical boundaries even more with “Scrotie” a giant…you know what… that, along with “The Jockstraps” (cheerleaders), root on the school’s teams “The Nads” (hockey) and “The Balls” (basketball).
Mascots have become a scourge nationally, if not worldwide. Can you remember any of the Olympic mascots? Of course not, because they were created by someone who was obviously under the influence. The line has to be drawn people. And as Michigan fans, you’re in the forefront of the anti-mascot crusade. No poor student wearing a smelly costume with a too big head will roam our sidelines! Ever!
Michigan 41 Illinois 17
By Nick RoUMel
Nobody expects Illinois to beat Michigan. Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition either, yet it still happened.
Every time Michigan plays Illinois we are favored. Yet during the throes of “The Curse of Dino” (Football Guide 11/16/96), we failed to win two consecutive matchups against Illinois that we were expected to win handily. Another heartbreaker occurred in 1999.
The point is that Michigan has been involved in far too many games where the unexpected has occurred, defying the pundits who pick the percentages. Today will be one of those days.
Yes, certain things can be counted on. Homecoming will be a grand time, with grey haired alumni honorees and former cheerleaders squeezing into their old uniforms. An impressive flyover will occur; the Wolverines will burst through the tunnel; and Denard will dazzle. The student section will stand the entire game, and despite a cold rain, drunken frat boys will stand shirtless, with runny maize and blue paint on their hairless chests.
And before the game, tens of thousands of fans will fruitlessly seek the passer-outers of the free Michigan Football Guide, to see what Punt and Counterpunt have to say about the game. (Hey, fans! We’re online now—it’s SO 21st Century!) After the game, Punt will soak his feet in Epsom salts and enjoy a Long Island Iced Tea.
Other events will be less predictable. Will Fitzgerald Toussaint gain more than 50 yards? Will Jose “Papagrande” Valverde hold the Tigers’ lead? [ed: no.] And will the Inquisitors come to your house in the dead of night, and torture you until you confess your lifetime loyalty to the Michigan Wolverines?
Here is where Counterpunt, seized with uncertainty, will go out on a limb. Cobbling together scant evidence, I predict a stunning Illinois victory. After all, they did trounce Western Michigan, and shut out Charleston Southern. Compared to that, Michigan will be low hanging fruit.
So brave the rain and admire the drunken frat boys, but otherwise, prepare for the unexpected. It’s the only way to survive Saturday’s Inquisition.
ILLINOIS 27, MICHIGAN 26
Update: While we started off early morning dry with clearer skies, things have turned overcast. We've picked up a few hundredths of rain already this morning, and just because we're dry for this moment-don't let it fool you, take that poncho! The set-up right now in the atmosphere supports rain this afternoon (and overnight), and this break will be short-lived. Thunderstorms are still possible today and tonight, and lightning strikes have already been reported with the rain/storms headed our way. Keep an eye on the weather and stay safe!
High pressure system moves out of the area and a low pressure system makes it's way through the plains-headed for the Great Lakes region. The system could cause severe weather-and delays for other college games-for A2 we'll get some rain and possibly a thunderstorm (especially later in the day), and today is a day you'll want to pay attention to the weather. Don't be shocked if there's a lightning delay here. Happy Homecoming and grab the poncho if you're headed to this one...
Clear skies, light winds, and dry air early (5-8am) this morning has lows around 30 degrees -expect widespread frost on the ground! A freeze warning's in effect until 8am for Washtenaw County. We'll start to thaw out around that time as a warmer breeze out of the south and the sunrise picks temps up quickly; cloud cover will also start to go up. Wind starts to pick up to about 10mph (leaves blow about) by 9am, and by early afternoon could get gusts around 20mph (small branches move). By late morning/lunchtime temps have reached the low 40s and we also bring in the rain and possible t-storms.
What a raw start to a game! Gray, rainy, and windy. The first round of heavier rain continues to make it's way through during the first half. Thunderstorms are possible as well. Wind will be out of the SSW at 15mph with gusts in the low 20s. Hitting 54 degrees right around kickoff.
Temperature continues to rise, and by halftime we're up to 58 degrees with overcast skies, rain, and t-storms are possible. Wind is up a bit-still out of the SSW-to 17mph with gusts in the mid 20s.
Some backyards may have received 1/2" of rainfall by the end of the game! The temperature goes up by a couple more degrees behind a warm front. By 10pm, we're up to 60 degrees and we'll stay around 63 throughout the night. Showers and possible thunderstorms are still in the forecast during the entire evening, overnight, and into Sunday as well, with the greatest potential for heavy rain near the Saginaw/Tri-Cities area. Wind will stay constant also-staying up around 15-17mph and gusts in the low and mid 20s. If you're going to the game-probably going to be one where you head home for soup afterwards! Have a great time and go blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI, and temporarily for NBC25 in Flint/Saginaw, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
Previously: Early Outlook
It may be the middle of football season, but it's already time to gear up for basketball; Michigan tips off the 2012-13 season against Northern Michigan on November 1st, a scant three weeks from yesterday. Leading up to the opener I'll be doing a comprehensive preview, starting with a look at the rotation—guards/wings today, bigs next week—and then moving on to the schedule, a look at the Big Ten competition, and important questions facing the team this season.
Let's take a look at the guards/wings, shall we?
Returners: PG Trey Burke, SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr., PG Eso Akunne, SG/SF Matt Vogrich, SG Josh Bartlestein, SG Corey Person
Departures: SG Stu Douglass
Newcomers: PG Spike Albrecht, SG Nik Stauskas, SG Caris Levert
Note: Freshman Glenn Robinson III could easily—and probably should be—included in this post with the wings, but since he's expected to see time at the four and there are more guards/wings than bigs on the roster, he'll be featured in next week's post.
#3 TREY BURKE (Soph.)
Ht./Wt.: 6'0", 190 lbs.
2011-12 Key Stats: 34 GP (33 GS), 14.8 points/game, 4.6 assists/game, 49.0 2P%, 34.8 3P%, 28.7% assist rate, 1.7 FC/40
Michigan received a huge scare over the offseason when it appeared that Burke would declare for the NBA Draft, but he's returned for at least one more season in the Maize and Blue after earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors from the media in 2011-12. Despite the presence of Tim Hardaway Jr., it was Burke who became the team's go-to guy down the stretch as the season wore on, notably hitting an improbable floater over Jared Sullinger to seal a win over Ohio State and exploding for 30 points against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite being much smaller than his point guard predecessor, Darius Morris, Burke showed the ability last season to score in a variety of ways, including getting to the basket off the pick-and-roll. While his outside shooting stroke lacked consistency, he still managed to hit nearly 35% of his threes, and Slam Magazine declared that area of his game "improved" after June's Nike Skills Camp. Given his adept passing, if Burke is able to become a ~40% three-point shooter he'll be as lethal a point guard as there is in the country.
If there's one area to improve upon offensively, it's Burke's ability to handle the hard hedge on the pick-and-roll; he struggled with turnovers when teams doubled hard with a big off the screen. That's an area that will improve with experience, though Burke's lack of size means that will still be the way to most effectively limit him.
Defensively, Burke impressed for a freshman; he very rarely fouls (just 1.7 committed per 40 minutes) and is quick enough to stay in front of just about anyone. He hounded Wisconsin standout Jordan Taylor into a 12-point outing on just 5-15 shooting in a victory last January, impressively shutting down the bigger Taylor on multiple post-up attempts; his size belies his strength, and he'll only get stronger after adding ten pounds in the offseason.
Burke is in line to compete for first-team All-America honors this season; he's the proverbial straw that stirs the drink in Beilein's pick-and-roll-heavy offense, and he's no slouch defensively, either.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the guards and wings, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and a trio of talented freshmen.]
|WHAT||Michigan vs Illinois|
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM EST
October 13th, 2012
|THE LINE||M -25|
|TELEVISION||ESPN/ABC reverse mirror (I KNOW)
|WEATHER||around 50, light rain all day w storms at gametime|
Bring your ponchos out. Image via Dubsism.
HEY GUYS I'M KIND OF TERRIBLY SICK AND IF THIS IS LATE AND MAYBE LESS EFFORTFUL THAN NORMAL JUST BLAME EVERYTHING EXCEPT ME.
Run Offense vs Illinois
Do not get used to this statement about the Illini football team: hey, this isn't half bad. Every other Illini stat of relevance languishes 80th or below; Illinois is 38th in rush defense despite acquiring almost no sacks. The problems only happen against bad BCS rushing offenses:
PSU is currently 80th, Wisconsin 90th in rush offense. Arizona State is okay at 55th. The week before the Illinois-Wisconsin game, the Badgers got Montee Ball 93 yards… on 31 carries. You can probably chalk the relative statistical success here up to schedule effects that will evaporate as the season goes along.
Spence's star has started to fade without departed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning:
Akeem Spence*/DL/Illinois: Spence recorded 9 tackles during the loss to Penn State, but the statistics don't tell the whole story. The junior tackle was manhandled most of the game and pushed off the line of scrimmage or controlled in man-on-man blocking. Spence did not turn in a terrible performance, but did not look like the first-round prospect most believe him to be.
My memories of Spence are mostly David Molk reaching him like a boss.
Okay, okay, but Wisconsin had about half of those yards in the fourth quarter when things got out of hand, and Michigan has not been pushing guys around. Everyone's concerned about Fitz Toussaint's production, or lack thereof, and despite the numbers above this just doesn't seem like a slam dunk, especially if Michigan is going to put the passing game in the barn again.
That said, fits and starts are the order of the day, with starts being long long runs when Illinois busts something and the fits coming when one of their players shoves someone other than Lewan into the backfield. It'll be an ugh-ugh-WOO kind of thing.
Key Matchup: Mealer/Omameh/Barnum versus Spence and Other Guy. Would like to see some movement here, some inside zone doubles that actually come off, some Toussaint yards. Our operative theory so far is that it's hard to deal with Short and ND's 3-4s in Michigan's non-Denard Run Game; movement Saturday is necessary to continue that narrative.
[Hit THE JUMP for Champaign