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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

Grade the Wolverines: Rate Michigan's performance against Illinois

By Rich Rezler

Here's your chance to weigh in on the Michigan football team's 31-14 win at Illinois on Saturday. Grade the Wolverines on offense, defense, special teams, coaching and overall:


Michigan seemed to be marching up and down the field at will until late in the first half, when three straight drives into the red zone petered out (turnover on downs, interception, missed field goal). Things were clunky after that, but Fitz Toussaint finished with 192 yards and a touchdown, Denard Robinson ran for two scores before leaving the game with an injury and Devin Gardner threw a touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms.


Illinois didn’t pick up a first down until three minutes into the second quarter, didn’t reach Michigan territory until the final minutes of the third quarter and averaged just 1.1 yards on 33 rushing attempts. Ryan Van Bergen had four of Michigan’s eight tackles-for-loss and Mike Martin was strong up front, making nine tackles. J.T. Floyd played well against Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins, including an interception he returned for 43 yards.


Brendan Gibbons split a pair of field goal attempts and was 4-for-4 on PAT kicks. Will Hagerup punted four times for a 34.3-yard average, Matt Wile had touchbacks on five of his six kickoffs and Jeremy Gallon averaged 15.5 yards on four punt returns, including a long of 32 yards. Illinois had a total of 22 return yards on three attempts (1 kickoff, 2 punts).


Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison must get a nod here. With many of the same players on both sides of the ball last year, Illinois racked up 561 yards of offense and 65 points against the Wolverines. This year, the Illini were limited to 214 yards - most of those coming after the game was in hand. Offensively, there was more questionable goal-line play calling, which has become a trend over the past four games.


The Wolverines are 8-2 and their defense is statistically among the best in the nation. Not many prognosticators were making those predictions in the pre-season.



Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

8-4 with a solid shot of being at least 9-3 and beating OSU. Feels pretty good compared to any of the previous three years and preseason expectations in August. I know all the caveats about strength of schedule, and what we face next year. I have no illusions that Michigan is back as a team already. Still to come so far, especially on defense, it is amazing what competent coaching can do. Simply amazing.

craig snowgold

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Still need offensive cord. to step up and show what everyone's bragging about! he's not creative in the red zone, has forgotten we have a tight end, and our receivers have great talent that isn't being seen, because he can't figure it out. And the coaches need to work on screens big time! I still think hoke needs to wear those head set's and be more vocal about our offense. Between to twenty's were great, inside the twenty, were horrid! The defense is awesome, the offense not so.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:50 a.m.

This game was closer than the score indicated. the offense was atrocious for most of the game. The improvement on defense is quite remarkable. Unfortunately, as Lou Holz commented, "the Michigan offense is much less dangerous than last year". How can you take one of the most lethal offenses in the country last year and cut it's scoring by 40 or 50%? This year offense has the ball much more often due to the constant stops of the defense but 3 and outs are the most common result. It's such a strange situation. The defense has progressed so far so fast and the offense- with nearly all players back is mediocre at best. To those who thing the old offense didn't burn up the clock enough with long slow drives. How much time do they take off the clock when they go three and out over and over again? We should have won against Iowa for certain. Defensive coaching A+++. Offensive coaching F all the way.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

Rufus you are clueless. If you allow a team THREE overtimes, there will be a lot more scoring (TWENTY TWO MORE POINTS). You are comparing apples to oranges. Michigan possessed the ball for 32 minutes of the game this year, 25 last. What part of 31 points don't you understand? Nebraska and Penn State COMBINED for 31 yesterday. Want some more FACTS. Scoring offense in the Big Ten this year UM is THIRD. Defense is number 2. The BEST yards per game team in the Big Ten is Illinois. This was not a lousy defense they went against. Your post is a major F all the way. You havent a clue what you are talking about.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

Actually, Rufus, IMO the game was a complete blowout and absoutely not much closer than the score indicated. Missed opportunities in the red zone is what kept the score close. And that is on the offense and on Coach Hoke for going for the touchdown on 4th and goal instead of taking the easy 3 points. On the road in Big Ten play you need the points, don't leave them on the field. A cpl of turnovers by Denard when we had momentum on our side also is a huge factor. If we cash in on just 2 of those (even if both are field goals for a total of 6 pts) you aren't leaving the post that you did.

Daniel Schuetz

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:44 a.m.

All this pulling of Denard Robinson, and getting him behind center, blah, blah, blah, has discombobulated him. How can you mess up the greatest, and most exciting player in college football? Devin Gardner is great, but this is Denard's time. Hope he works on his passing game next year, and they use the shot gun for him more. Defense, and Greg Matison, make no mistakes. I love the turn over ratio. Just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. If not for the screwing around with Denard, Michigan would be undefeated.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

Daniel, I have no idea what game you watched on Saturday. O-line blocking was atrocious? How many yards did Fitz gain? Destruction of one of the most potent offenses in the country? They are loearning to play with the power and grit needed to perform consistently against the better, more physical defenses in the B1G that stymied this offense last year. Denard is a work in progress, and I believe that he actually is progressing. He looked good in the first half when he was fundamentally sound in his approach to his passes. Which is what Borgess has been stressing ALL year! When pressured, he made bad choices. But I believe he is learning and growing in his new role in this offense. I see improvement the next two games and then in the bowl game. Even more improvement in spring practice. This offense is on the way up, not down. Go Blue!

Daniel Soebbing

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:21 a.m.

I wasn't counting, but I don't think Denard took more than 10% of his snaps from under center in the Illinois game. He was in the shotgun almost the entire time. Main problem was the atrocious blocking of the offensive line.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

I agree. The destruction of one of the most potent offenses in the country is ludicrous. The defense is incredible but the destruction and misuse of Denard is ridiculous.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

I'm just not convinced Denard is the "most exciting player in college football." For the first four games of 2010? Okay, I'll give him that. Since then? Hardly. Even last year he showed his weaknesses as the season wore on. Robinson's stock was limited on its upside by some very bad habits picked up under previous coaches. If anything, I believe Borges will extract the most out of Robinson's potential over time. But I'm here to say I don't think the top-side of that potential as a quarterback is all that great. I think Robinson is fundamentally limited in a variety of ways. This we can be sure of -- simply running Denard a lot is not the key. Defenses know how to contain him when he moves laterally. And he can run north-south well enough if there's a proper seam. But defenses have learned how to angle on him and they don't get caught with the pants down nearly as often as they did early in 2010.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:48 a.m.

You, apparently, missed the fact that Devin did not come in the game until Denard was hurt? Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

31-14 on the road against a pretty good Illinois team? That warrants an A in my book.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

The same players scored 64 points against Illinose last year. How is that an A. On offense an F-.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

Yes, it could have been much better offensively. Michigan was turned away too many time in the red zone. ABC announcer Craig James said it best, regarding Michigan's last two scores, that they should stay out of the red zone to score. The officating was as fair as I have seen the past several weeks. The ABC announcers were also fair about Michigan and IL. I liked their even keel. Michigan took the crowd out of the game early on with the 14-zip lead and smothering defense the entire first half. Michigan is now 8 and 2. Nice rebound after last week's loss.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Rufus, The defense is only slightly better than last year? Are you on drugs? They gave up FOURTEEN points to a team that hit them for 65 last year AND with the same QB. The Michigan offense scored 31 points. Thirty one points is enough to win the vast majority of games. Giving up 65 will lose you many more than you win GUARANTEED. Last year the offense had more possessions because the Illini were scoring so fast and there were 20 of those points scored in overtime. By the way, the Illinois defense is MUCH improved over last year as well. This game was never in doubt on the road, while last years game was in doubt until the final play at home. Finally, if you want proof this was works better. Last year UM won exactly SEVEN games. This year they have won 8 already with three left to play. By any measurable standard the team is doing better.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

How can you take the same players from last year who scored 64 point and have them going into the 4th quarter up only 17 to nothing. The Michigan offense was 3 and outing Illinois over and over again(unlike last year) and yet the lousy new offense was horrible- a shell of last year, The destruction of Michigan's offense is only slightly offset by the rise of the Michigan defense. What a wast e on both counts.