Monday, October 22, 2007

#25 Michigan 27 Illinois 17

The #25 Michigan Wolverines won their sixth straight game, defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 27-17 under the lights on Saturday night in Champaign. This was Michigan’s first road test of the year and the Wolverines passed with flying colors. Illinois jumped out to a 14-3 lead early on, but senior quarterback Chad Henne led the Michigan comeback. WCBN was there in Champaign to broadcast the game, so thank you to all who listened to us on the sports stream.

Michigan Offense vs Illinois Defense:

Michigan was without senior running back Michael Hart as his status was questionable coming into the game but he did not even dress. Carlos Brown got the start and did a tremendous job stepping into the big shoes of Mike Hart, rushing for 113 yards on 25 carries. Brandon Minor, who is also dealing with a leg injury, was able to come in and do a great job picking up blitzes on third down passing situations.

Chad Henne battled through an early shoulder injury and really showed his competitiveness in playing through the pain. After watching Ryan Mallet struggle through the third quarter, Henne could be seen arguing with the coaches on the sideline, trying to get back into the game. Henne passed John Navarre as Michigan’s all-time completions leader during the game, going 18-26 for 201 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Mario Manningham tallied his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game hauling in nine passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. The play of the game came in the fourth quarter when Adrian Arrington throwing a touchdown pass to Manningham off an end-around. Arrington added three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown that came after the initial ruling on the field was overturned.

Advantage: Michigan

Michigan Defense vs Illinois Offense:

Michigan fans had to be worried coming into this game knowing that Illinois runs a spread offense with a mobile quarterback. In the Wolverine’s two losses this year, the opposing offense moved the ball at will running a similar style offense. Those worries only intensified when Illinois scored two early touchdowns, but after that the Michigan defense really settled down and held Illinois to just a field goal over the last two and a half quarters of the game.

Juice Williams was held to just 70 yards passing and 17 yards rushing and backup Eddie McGee didn’t fair much better, throwing for just 46 yards. Rashard Mendenhall was limited to just 85 yards on 18 carries, making this the second straight week that he has failed to rush for 100 yards.

Brandent Englemon led the way defensively with 11 tackles. Chris Graham turned in his best game of the year, recording his first career sack, six tackles, and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Also in the career first category, freshman cornerback Donovan Warren intercepted his first pass late in the fourth quarter.

Advantage: Michigan

Special Teams:

Michigan has struggled all year in this category and some of those struggles continued on Saturday. Kick off coverage remains an issue as the Wolverines gave up a big return yet again, this weeks was a 63-yard return by Vontae Davis to start the game. I asked 5th year senior Anton Campbell about this issue at the press conference and he attributed it to poor tackling. There has to be more going on here, because on Davis’s return, there was not a Wolverine within five yards of him to even attempt a tackle until he was finally caught from behind by Morgan Trent.

Kick off returns are another area where Michigan has struggled. A 13 yard average on returns is not where this team should be at this point of the season. Coming into the game, Michigan was ranked 107th nationally in kick off returns and 100th in kick off coverage. Both of those rankings will probably slide after the performance against Illinois.

On the bright side, Michigan seems to have found their kicker as K.C. Lopata was two of two on field goals converting both a 25 and 39-yarder. Zoltan Mesko unleashed his best punt of the year, a career long 67 yarder that pinned the Illini at their own four yard line. Of his four punts, he downed three inside the 20 and two of those three were inside the four.

For the Illini, Jason Reda went 1 of 2, his miss being from 47-yards out. Reda had been perfect coming into the game at 9 of 9. As previously mentioned, Vontae Davis had the big return of the day to start the game for Illinois.

Advantage: Michigan (for the first time all year)

Notable Stats:

Chad Henne: 18-26; 201 yards; 2 TD; 1 INT

Carlos Brown: 25 carries; 113 yards

Mario Manningham: 9 catches; 109 yards; 2 TD

Adrian Arrington: 3 catches; 58 yards; 1 TD; 1-1 passing; 11 yards; 1 TD

Zoltan Mesko: 4 punts; 44.0 avg; 67 yard long; 3 inside the 20, 2 inside the 5

K.C. Lopata: 2-2 Field Goals (25, 39 yards)

Brandent Englemon: 11 tackles

Chris Graham: 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 6 tackles

Isiah (Juice) Williams: 8-14; 70 yards; 1 TD; 1 INT; 7 carries; 17 yards

Rashard Mendenhall: 18 carries; 85 yards

This was Lloyd Carr’s 100th Big 10 conference game, the win pushed his record up to 79-21

Carr has the third highest Big 10 conference winning percentage (.790), behind two other Michigan coaches – Bo Schembechler (.850) and Fielding Yost (.796)

Co-Player of the Game: Chad Henne: 18-26; 201 yards; 2 TD; 1 INT playing through injury

Carlos Brown: 25 carries; 113 yards filling in for Mike Hart

Press Conference Notes:

  • Mike Hart will practice this week and it sounds like he should be able to play against Minnesota
  • It is unknown if Chad Henne will be able to practice today, or whether if he’ll be able to play against Minnesota
  • Expect to see Steve Schilling fill in at right guard in the event of another injury at that position
  • Jeremy Ciulla could be back at right guard this week
  • Alex Mitchell is still out, his return status for later in the year remains unknown
  • Lloyd Carr likes to sing “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina” to the players to keep them loose in practice. Unfortunately he declined to serenade us at the press conference.

Other College Football Notes:

  • The MAC conference has two of the nations top five rushers
  • Michigan is now ranked 20th in the BCS Poll, 19th in the AP Poll, and 21st in the USA Today Poll
  • Appalachian State lost their second game of the year this week, falling 38-35 to Georgia Southern

WCBN NCAA Player of the Week: Matt Forte (Tulane): 38 carries, 342 yards, 9 YPC, 4 TD

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