Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was pleased with the Wolverines offensive showing against the Illinois Fighting Illini in a 42-25 victory on the road. Michigan’s offense totaled 489 yards on offense, with 295 of it coming on the ground.
In all, Michigan’s offense scored three touchdowns on offense, with three coming through the air and three on the ground.
Michigan started hot with a 28-0 first half lead, but then the Illini gained momentum and scored 25 unanswered points to make it 28-25.
With a 4th and 2 situation in the red-zone, Harbaugh opted to let quarterback Shea Patterson keep it on a run and Patterson moved the chains which led to a Donovan Peoples-Jones 5-yard touchdown reception that put Michigan up two scores. Michigan added another score later in the fourth quarter and never looked back. Patterson’s first down run was a pivotal conversion at a crucial time in the game.
“We put the ball in Shea Patterson’s hands, he is tenacious in those kind of situations, in those kind of big moments,” Harbaugh said. “Felt really good that he could pick it up for us, the offense was hungry to do it.”
Patterson completed 50% of his throws on the day, going 11-for-22 for 194 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown from a yard out. While Patterson’s stat-line may not be the prettiest, four scores is nothing to scoff at, and the wind was swirling heavily throughout most of the game.
“That was tough throwing the ball today, and came up with throws, he’s got a very strong arm, throws a very tight spiral and made some big plays when we needed it,” Harbaugh said. “I think our team was tested a lot, it was a heck of a challenge. Especially going into the wind it was tough throwing the ball and our running game really rose to the occasion and I think Shea did a really good job of throwing the ball into the wind, against it.”
Overall, Harbaugh was happy with the offensive output, highlighting various position groups and how they performed.
“The line, the quarterback’s (Patterson) really good, he’s a really good player. He makes big time plays, he’s great under pressure. He makes the throws, makes the runs. And our running backs stepped up, both Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins went for over 100 yards,” Harbaugh said. “Our offensive line, I thought they blocked, sustained, very little mental error. And the tight end and receiver group made big catches, put the ball away, made yards after catch. Ronnie Bell, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Luke Schoonmaker and Nick Eubanks. Tarik Black, I thought he played very effective.”
Something that could be thrown to the wayside when evaluating Michigan’s performance was how they responded after Illinois turned a 28-point deficit into a 3-point nail-biter. Michigan did what it needed to do to escape Champaign with a victory, they didn’t become deflated and succumb to the overwhelming momentum that was on the Fighting Illini sideline.
“The thing I’m proud of as a team is there wasn’t this ‘here we go again’, we rose up and got a few fumbles of our own (on defense),” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said he wasn’t worried when the game got close. “I trust and believe in our team and we saw the evidence today,” he said. “Very proud of that fact and our guys. I think there’s a callus that’s been built there and a toughness that has been born out of that and that bodes well for our team.”
Harbaugh did acknowledge that ball security on offense is something that still needs to improve, but he was proud of the effort besides that. “There were a lot of big plays, a lot of good play,” Harbaugh said. “A couple fumbles that wouldn’t have liked to have seen but outside of that I think our offense was playing pretty darn good.”
If Michigan is going to beat Penn State on the road, the offense will likely have to play pretty darn good then. The Wolverines take on the Nittany Lions next Saturday night.