It was ugly, frightening, stressful, but in the end, the 11th game of the season shared the same result as the first 10: victory.
The Michigan Wolverines defeated Illinois 19-17 in their closest game of the season on Saturday. Michigan was already shorthanded to begin the game without Donovan Edwards, Luke Schoonmaker, Trevor Keegan and Mike Morris, but once Heisman-hopeful Blake Corum went down clutching his knee late in the second quarter, a losing result quickly felt inevitable.
But despite an overwhelmed offensive line, missed reads and dropped passes, Michigan was able to shutout the Illini in the final quarter and score nine unanswered points to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Michigan has won 11 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1902-03, and the floor for the season is a trip to the Rose Bowl. Next week should be the Game of the Century, but let’s first hand out game balls for win No. 11.
K Jake Moody
WHO ELSE?! The biggest game ball of the year has to be Michigan’s money kicker who finished 4-of-4 on field goals, including a long of 46 yards and the game-winner with nine seconds remaining.
Moody is the top scorer in the country and the best kicker in the history of Michigan. In Moody’s final appearance in the Big House, the defending Lou Groza Award winner exceeded his reputation and preserved Michigan’s undefeated record.
LB Junior Colson
The sophomore linebacker once again led the Wolverines in tackles (6), tied for the lead in tackles for loss (0.5) and was critical in slowing down the nation’s leading rusher —Chase Brown — in the final frame. Brown got the best of the unit in the middle two quarters and rushed for 140 yards on the afternoon, but was held to just 19 yards in the fourth quarter.
Colson was one of the backbones in stopping Illinois late to give Michigan the ball back. He has quietly become one of the best players on Michigan’s defense and one of the most important players on the team.
CB DJ Turner
There was a 2021 DJ Turner sighting on Saturday! Turner looked like his old dominant self battling with receivers in coverage, playing technically sound and flying around to make tackles.
On what appeared to be Illinois’ final third down, Turner flew up from his coverage spot to make a sound, shoestring tackle on scrambling quarterback Tommy DeVito. The play was called back due to an offensive holding but for a brief moment, Turner had made the most important play of the season.
This performance was an encouraging sign from a struggling player, whose play will be imperative to Michigan’s success next week in Columbus.
WR/PR Ronnie Bell
DT Mason Graham
TE Colston Loveland