You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

65 points allowed? Michigan out to prove it plays a different brand of football in Illinois rematch

By Kyle Meinke


Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is tied up against Michigan last season.

Melanie Maxwell |

Sixty-seven. Sixty-five.

Two numbers you're not likely to see this weekend — or better not see, for the safety of Michigan football players.

The Wolverines won a memorable, triple-overtime game last year by that score against the Illini — and were thrilled with the victory, considering it qualified them for their first bowl game under former coach Rich Rodriguez.

If they give up 65 points in the rematch Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC), though, players better duck for cover.

Coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison have renewed Michigan's dedication to defense this year, and it's paying off. The Wolverines are holding opponents to the seventh fewest points per game (15.7) in the country.

They gave up 35.2 points per game last year, a program record, and bottomed out by allowing a school-worst 65 against Illinois.

The Wolverines are trying to close the books on that one.

"We haven’t really talked much about that because we know we’re a new defense," senior defensive lineman Mike Martin said this week. "We have a new mindset. We, all around, are just different as a team. We know what we’re capable of as a defense."

Illinois tailback Mikkel Leshoure, who scored five touchdowns after the start of the fourth quarter in last year's game, is gone. However, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase returns after throwing for 211 yards, running for 101 more and accounting for four touchdowns.

Oh, and he's better, too. The sophomore is completing 63.9 percent of his passes this year, up from his 58.7-percent clip last year.

Scheelhaase also gets to throw to senior A.J. Jenkins, the Big Ten's top receiver at 68 receptions for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns. Mattison said he would like to double-team him, but cannot because of personnel limitations.

"We have some things that we have in mind for him, but for me to tell you we are going to double him or take him out of the game? I wish I could say yes on that,” he said.

Michigan's defense will have its hands full, but also is more equipped this year to handle such an offense.

The thing is, Illinois is a different team as well.

The Illini, who finished 48th nationally in scoring defense last year, have soared to 13th this year, tucked just behind Michigan. They allow 17.2 points per game.

They also lead the Big Ten in sacks, with their 3.44 per game average more than a half-sack better than anyone else. Whitney Mercilus has nearly twice as many sacks (11.5) as the next closest player in the league — and that player happens to be teammate Michael Buchanan.

Those two play defensive end, and figure to give Michigan's haggard offensive line fits.

"They’re both very athletic ends," Hoke said. "They do a lot with them. They take advantage of what they do well."

Much of what Illinois does defensively revolves around the blitz. Left tackle Taylor Lewan said that philosophy is similar to what San Diego State did in Week 4.

"They’ve got a lot of coverage, a lot of different fronts," Hoke said. "A lot of different zone blitzes and man blitzes. It’ll be interesting to see how they want to (attack) our offensive linemen."

Another team that liked to bring a lot of blitzes was Michigan State, and it had tremendous success against the Wolverines, who scored a season-low 14 points and allowed seven sacks in that game.

The Wolverines lost that one on the road, then lost at Iowa last week and are 1-2 on the season away from Michigan Stadium. They'll look to reverse that trend Saturday in what could become a defensive tussle.

A far cry from last year.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Terry Star21

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

Michigan wins and holds the illini to under 24 points.....we have 8 wins now, on the way to ten.....everyone stops talking about last years coach, last three years disasters - what a perfect world ! MgoBlueForTim..........Happy Saturday for the Michigan Football Faithful.....


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

"Some people didn't support Rich Rodriguez, that made Ohio fans very happy." Don't blame the very happy Ohio fans on us Michigan fans ... the guy you have a man crush on (RR) is to blame for the happy Ohio fans. They absolutely loved RR.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

I'm worried about our offense... Urban Meyer is a great coach... that little copycat.... Urban Meyer's teams at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida all ran the spread, chiefly utilizing a run-first variation most similar to Rich Rodriguez 's formerly at West Virginia


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:37 a.m.

Urban Meyer is a great coach. He just last week said the spread is on the way out. The thing is, Urban will be able to work around that with whatever offensive style he needs to use to win...which is a big part of what makes him a great coach. Not to mention that he realizes the importance of having a defense.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

If we had Rich Rodriguez's offense and Greg Mattison's defense and both are excellent recruitors... Many Big Ten Championships and a couple of National Championships But I still like Hoke and support him 100%... Some people didn't support Rich Rodriguez, that made Ohio fans very happy...

Blue Marker

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

Michigan isn't the only defence that's much better. Illinois is much improved as well. Michigan 28 Illinois 24 on a late Robinson TD.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Marker. I hope you are right in your prediction, BUT, it could just as easily be 28-21 , the other way around. Michigan's D didn't hold up last week, and the offense never showed up. And Illinois is a better team, than Iowa.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

The defense is much better this year, the offense is much worse...


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

Richrod is a better coach than Al Borges


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

2011 ... 32.7 ppg 2010 ... 34.3 ppg 1.6 less pts per game is not even close to MUCH worse, especially when you consider that our red zone efficiency and turnover margin is MUCH better this year. But don't let the facts get in your way.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

I disagree with your assessment of the offense. One of the reasons our defense is better is that our offense is able to control the ball this season and keep our defense off the field. It's not all about how many points you score, but how the offense and defense work together as a team to WIN. Besides that, our offense last year was completely shut down against top competition as defenses knew all they had to do was stop DR. At least Hoke/Borges know they have to at least TRY and diversify this offense to prevent that from happening again (see OSU, Miss St last season).


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

I'm not sure that the offense is much ( or any) worse against ranked opponents.

Blu n Tpa

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

"A far cry from last year." I hope so in everything but the outcome. Michigan win's it, by 2. TiM Go Blue!