Michigan improved to 11-0 on Saturday afternoon after beating Illinois 19-17 at Michigan Stadium. The game had ebbs, flows, wind, cold, injuries, and clutch performances. Here are key takeaways from the game.
Blake Corum’s injury changes the trajectory of game
Halftime was approaching, Michigan was in the red-zone with a 7-3 lead and Corum already had over 100 yards rushing and a score. Then everything changed. Corum’s knee was hit, he fumbled the ball, Illinois seized possession, and Corum went to the locker room. Corum rushed once in the second half for five yards, but C.J. Stokes and Isaiah Gash carried the load the rest of the way. Stokes rushed for 36 yards, Gash rushed for 6. Not many people are Blake Corum, and naturally, Michigan’s rushing output took a hit.
Stokes had a couple nice runs and Gash had a crucial reception on Michigan’s game-winning drive, but today was proof of how valuable Corum is to Michigan’s offense. Jim Harbaugh said after the game that structurally everything is good for Corum, hopefully he’ll heal enough by the time Michigan faces Ohio State next week.
Jake Moody is a legend
Jake Moody won the Lou Groza Award last season, and after his performance against Illinois he has a good shot at winning it again. Moody was 4-of-4 on his field goal attempts and drilled three in the fourth quarter, in including one with just nine seconds left to all but seal Michigan’s 19-17 win. Moody has ice in his veins and no situation is too big for him. Jim Harbaugh said he’s legendary in Michigan history, and he’s right. Moody is as fine a kicker as there’s ever been for the Wolverines. Jake Moody should never have to buy a beer in Ann Arbor ever again.
Wind and frigid cold greatly impacted game
From wobbly punts to passes the dived, dipped, ducked, fluttered, and everything in between, the wind at Michigan Stadium was swirling and strong which made it tough for the passing game of both quarterbacks. McCarthy was 18-of-34 on the day for 208 yards. Not flashy statistics, they could have been better if not for an Andrel Anthony drop on a deep ball, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’ve been to hundreds of football games in my life, college and NFL, and the conditions in which to throw a football were among the worst I’ve seen. The wind isn’t an excuse, but it’s a reality.
It wasn’t just wind, it was incredibly cold, with a real feel hovering around nine degrees. The weather at Michigan Stadium versus Ohio State last year felt like a walk in the park compared to this. I said before the game on Twitter that Michigan’s manhood would be tested mentally and physically against a tough Illinois team in the cold, and that turned out to be quite accurate. Michigan landed just a couple more punches against a worthy opponent and entered their locker room triumphant.
Michigan’s defense comes up big again
It wasn’t Michigan’s best performance on defense. They faced a great running back in Chase Brown who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Tommy DeVito had an admirable afternoon going 21-of-30 for 178 yards. Illinois scratched and clawed on offense and did enough to get a lead and have Michigan fans scared for a bit. However, when Michigan needed huge stops and the ball back, their defense delivered in the fourth quarter. After allowing 14 points in the third quarter, Michigan’s D pitched a shutout in the final frame, then Michigan’s offense and Jake Moody did the rest.
Meat left on the bone and things to improve upon, but 11-0 sure sounds good
Michigan’s offensive line could have fared better down the stretch in pass-protection and run blocking, the defense could have generated a more consistent pass-rush, the offense could have generated a few more third-down conversions. In short, there are things to clean up before the team departs for Columbus. However, the team is doing plenty right to be in the position they are. No. 3 in the nation, 11-0 on the season, with a showdown against 11-0 Ohio State up next. This is why you’re reading this article, why you love football. Michigan finds ways to win, football isn’t always pretty, it’s about finding a way to get things done. Michigan was doubted and counted out before they shocked many last year and beat the Buckeyes 42-27. Michigan will be ridiculed and counted out once again next Saturday, this time on the road.
There’s no denying this Michigan team has fight, perseverance is in their DNA, and next week is exciting. Michigan will need to get healthy in a hurry. Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, Luke Schoonmaker, and others will hopefully be available. If not, it’s next man up and Michigan will have to gut it out once again. One thing is for sure, Michigan’s belief is stronger than any outside doubt.