Saturday, November 12, 2011
Instant Analysis: Michigan 31, Illinois 14
By Michael Rothstein
Turning point: Michigan cornerback J.T. Floyd read a Nathan Scheelhaase pass perfectly, jumping to pick off the play and return it 65 yards into Illinois territory with 10:50 left in the game. The Wolverines then scored on the following drive with a Devin Gardner 27-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms for a 24-7 Michigan lead.
Player of the game: Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin. The senior nose tackle was in the Illinois backfield all day, making a team-high nine tackles and having a half-sack. The nine tackles are one off his career high of 10, set against Wisconsin in 2009. He disrupted everything Illinois tried to do on offense in the first half.
Unsung hero of the game: Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. The Michigan running back started the game hot, gaining 134 of his career-high 192 yards in the first half, but his play led to two early Wolverines touchdowns and forced Illinois to shift its defensive plan and focus on the running back.
What Michigan learned, What Illinois learned: Michigan -- The Wolverines learned two things Saturday. First, that it can win with defense. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison called the best game of his first season in his second stint with the Wolverines against Illinois. Michigan held Illinois to negative-12 yards rushing in the first half and pressured Scheelhaase all game long. It also learned it might have a good quarterback in backup Gardner. As he received more snaps, he looked more comfortable and his touchdown pass to Odoms was one of the better throws of the season. Illinois -- That the offensive line needs some work. Illinois couldn't block much of what Michigan ran at the Illini on Saturday, barely being able to run the ball and not giving Scheelhaase time to stay in the pocket. It seemed to throw Illinois' entire offense out of rhythm.
What it means: For Michigan, it gives the Wolverines the most wins they've had since 2007, when Michigan went 9-4 in the final season for former coach Lloyd Carr. It also showed Michigan it could win on the road in a hostile atmosphere. For Illinois, it is four straight losses and what looked like a special season in Champaign, Ill. is now in freefall as the Illini have to face Wisconsin next Saturday.
Record performance: It may not seem like a big record, but Odoms had a season-high two catches for 46 yards, including his first touchdown catch of the season. The 46 yards, though, pushed Odoms over 1,000 yards receiving for his career.