CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- John Navarre did his best to answer some
of the questions about Michigan's struggling offense.
The 6-foot-6 quarterback threw four touchdowns to three
different receivers and completed 22 of 37 passes for 264 yards
Saturday in a 45-28 win over Illinois on Saturday.
It was the highest-scoring game of the season for the
14th-ranked Wolverines (4-1), who were second-to-last in the Big
Ten in scoring.
"Our offense, I think, is a little more confident after
today,'' Navarre said. "We had the right answer for every defense
Meanwhile, Illinois (1-3) is left with more questions.
Last year's Big Ten champions are off to their worst start since
an 0-11 season in 1997. The Fighting Illini turned the ball over
five times against and allowed at least 30 points for the third
time this season. Michigan converted the mistakes into 24 points.
Safety Julius Curry, who had one sack, said he was surprised by
how easy the Wolverines had it.
"We thought they were going to come out with a better game,''
Curry said. "We shut their receivers down.''
The Illini came out throwing and were actually in the game early
until the turnovers knocked them out.
Illinois scored on two straight possessions in the first
quarter, a 51-yard TD pass from quarterback Jon Beutjer to Walter
Young and a 39-yard field goal by Peter Christofilakos.
With a 14-13 lead, Michigan started to roll. Charles Drake
returned an interception 46 yards to set up a 6-yard TD pass from
Navarre to Braylon Edwards. Then Navarre hit tight end Bennie
Joppru, who made a running, one-handed catch across the middle for
27-yard touchdown and a 28-13 halftime lead.
Joppru had a 6-yard TD reception to start the second half,
running back Chris Perry added another score from the 1 and Troy
Nienberg kicked a 21-yard field goal.
In all, Michigan scored 31 points in a row.
"We were going to go right at them with the passing game, and
we were able to open it up a little in the second half with the
running game,'' Navarre said. "I said last week that if we could
just cut out the turnovers, we have a pretty good offense.''
That's something Illinois can't seem to find.
The Illini have committed 13 turnovers this season and have yet
to intercept a pass on defense. Depth has been a problem. Illinois
was forced to start freshman Travis Williams at safety because of
injuries to the secondary.
"We're not giving ourselves a chance to be competitive,'' coach
Ron Turner said. "We at least need to give ourselves a chance to
win the game.''
Though two of Beutjer's interceptions were off-target passes
thrown straight at Michigan defenders, he didn't get much help.
Michigan sacked Beutjer three times, intercepted three of his
passes and pressured him on several other occasions.
Beutjer, who had thrown for 703 yards and eight touchdowns the
last two games, was not as effective in his third start for
Illinois. He overthrew open receivers and was hurried by an
attacking Michigan defense. He was 25-of-49 passes for 368 yards
with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
"He was trying too hard. I think he was trying to do too
much,'' Turner said. "I could see it in his eyes, he was pressing
a little bit; missing throws that he shouldn't miss and missing
Illinois scored two late touchdowns and actually gained more
yards than the Wolverines, 543-415.
Receiver Brandon Lloyd had 10 catches for 151 yards and one
touchdown, his third 100-yard receiving game on the season.
Illinois fans hoping to pay back Michigan for their 200 meeting
in Champaign began filing out of Memorial Stadium in the third
In that game, the Big Ten sent out a rare release admitting
officials made two incorrect fumble calls late in the game, won by
Michigan 35-31. Both fumbles helped the Wolverines, one giving them
the ball and the other keeping the winning drive alive.
"That wasn't on our mind at all,'' said safety Charles Drake,
who had two interceptions. "Well, maybe a little.''
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