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Posted on Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Red zone follies hamper otherwise dominant Michigan performance

By Nick Baumgardner

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The way the first-half box score read, one might have thought the Michigan football team was well on its way to a walk in the park.

But, thanks to several hiccups, the Wolverines' possible blowout turned into somewhat of a white-knuckle affair.

Michigan out-gained Illinois 249-30 in the first half, but thanks to a pair of Denard Robinson fumbles, a turnover on downs near the goal line and a missed field goal, the Wolverines only held a two-possession lead at the break.

"Yeah, it was frustrating," Hoke said. "Everybody gets frustrated."


Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson signals for a time out in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Melanie Maxwell I

After a 2-yard touchdown run by Robinson put Michigan up 14-0 early in the second quarter, the Wolverines appeared to be headed for an early kill-shot midway through the frame when Robinson found tight end Kevin Koger on a 40-yard strike to set the team up with a first and goal at the 2-yard-line.

Fitzgerald Toussaint followed that up with a pair of negative rushes before Robinson appeared to score on an 8-yard keeper. The apparent touchdown was reviewed and overturned, though, and Michigan was presented with a fourth-and-goal from the 1.

Hoke opted to go for the score, but Michigan lined up in a wide spread formation, calling an option look that resulted in a 4-yard loss and a turnover on downs.

Illinois promptly gave the ball right back to the Wolverines when Thomas Gordon recovered a fumble one play later on the Illini 13-yard line.

But, again, Michigan did nothing with the opportunity. Michael Shaw was dropped for an 8-yard loss on a stretch play before Robinson coughed the ball up on a sack (his second fumble of the half), giving the Illini possession back on their own 32.

Michigan's final first-half blunder came just outside the red zone with 55 seconds to play before the break. Brendan Gibbons pushed a 38-yard field goal with the wind at his back.

Hoke didn't give much explanation as to what happened on the missed opportunities, just saying they weren't due to a lack of effort.

"The kids are working their tails off," Hoke said. "You always want to look a little bit at your opponent and what they're doing, but you also have to look at what you did and where did we not block a guy right or miss an open receiver.

"That's all part of it."

Woolfolk, Gordon split time at safety

Michigan senior defensive back Troy Woolfolk once again earned the start at free safety Saturday against Illinois, but unlike last week, he didn't play the entire game.

Gordon split time with Woolfolk, and statistically had a better day.

Woolfolk finished with three tackles, but Gordon collected a pair of tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. The sophomore now has four fumble recoveries on the season.

"That's what we'd planned on doing before," Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said of rotating the two players. "Bottom line, everybody has to play and everybody has to do their job when they're out there."

Toussaint approaching milestone

With a career-high 192 yards on the ground Saturday, Toussaint now needs 247 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark on the season.

Toussaint's 753 rushing yards this season are the most by a Michigan running back since Mike Hart ran for 1,361 yards in 2007.

Hart was also the last Michigan running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier.

"I feed off of others," Toussaint said of his performance. "If my offensive line has juice, then I have juice."

Schofield starts; Barnum dresses, but doesn't play

Junior offensive guard Ricky Barnum was back in uniform Saturday after suffering another ankle injury two weeks ago against Purdue.

His services weren't needed, though, as sophomore Michael Schofield started in his place and was not subbed out.

Alongside left tackle Taylor Lewan, Schofield's blocking was key in Michigan's early running success, as a majority of Toussaint's 134 first-half yards came off the left side.

"They're both a work in progress, obviously," Hoke said. "I think (Schofield) is getting better with every start. He's going to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them as that tandem both grows together.

"Ricky will come back and compete, he's not all the way healthy. He could have played if it was an emergency situation. But, I think those six guys have done a nice job staying together and working together."

Floyd, Van Bergen fine after injuries

Michigan senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen and junior cornerback J.T. Floyd both left the game in the fourth quarter due to injury, but neither instance was serious.

"(Floyd had) a cramp and Ryan's fine," Hoke said.

Odds and ends

Illinois was 0-for-6 on third down conversions in the first half, and only netted one first down over the game's first 30 minutes. ... Robinson moved into a tie for sixth-place on Michigan's all-time rushing touchdown list, passing both Billy Taylor and Tom Harmon in the process. Robinson, who now has 31 career rushing touchdowns, is tied with Steve Smith and is three behind Rick Leach for fifth place. In addition, Robinson also moved past former quarterback Brian Griese for eighth-place on Michigan's all-time passing yards list with 4,467. He now trails Smith (4,860) for seventh-place. ... With his 27-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, senior receiver Martavious Odoms eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for his career.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Terry Star21

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

Big difference - last year I was as worried about our defense as I am this year with our offense on the 10 yd. line. I agree Hoke will recruit bigger, stronger - as the last three years it was smaller, faster. MgoBlueForTiM.......bigger, stronger and much better


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

Rufus has a good point. Borges is not doing a good enough job. Yes, we win but that is more because of the defense. The offense looked bad on too many plays and frankly we were lucky to win. Illinois had their chances to beat us. Robinson looks ill prepared to compete with the big teams and makes too many mistakes. He isn't much of a passer and the opposition knows it. He is a great kid so I would like Borges to prepare him for the NFL by switching him to another position today where he could excell with his speed. Furthermore, Borges needs to make changes now to give us a chance to win the next two games, and not wait until next year. Hoke and his team have done a fantastic job this year. Now we will see if he is capable of making the hard decisions leaders have to make.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

before I get whooped on. I know Dae'Narr has a lot on his plate...and the "O" coaches have asked him to live out of his comfort zone. BUT, for the last three seasons.....Denard has digressed rather than progressed... Looking at his stats. Since the Spanky games he goes from Heisman man to just another man. Next season Garner will be ready to eat raw meat.... Blue will have several blu-chips ready to prove themselves catching the ball. The "O" Line will be bigger, causing vision issue for Dae'narr. Remember, next season opener is against cowboy stadium.....the stage will will have been lite.... We can certainly chalk a lot up too Dae'narr taking a lot of hits after the Spanky game... I can't seem to get my hands round this red zone stumble-bumble. Why not run that funky jump pass. fake QB run....jump pass too the tight end.....Four up the middle and give the ball back. Hoke must be carrying Bo's play book round with him... MSU game.....was the time: 4th and seven inches.....Bo Ball....


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:08 a.m.

Borges has destroyed a once potent offense. It's only due to Mattison's coaching genius that Michigan has won 8 games. Grade: Mattison A++. Borges F-. Hoke C for letting both happen (one cancels out the other). Hat's off to Denard for keeping his head up when he must know he is being asked to do something he can't. I think the writing is on the wall that Devin Gardner will be starting next year. We'll never get to see Denard light up the scoreboard again. They try and make him an ineffective small wide out. He'd be better off transferring and having a fine senior year somewhere else. why waste the talent. Michigan should be 9 and 1 and possibly even 10 and 0 with this defense.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

truWCiMFHfan wrote: &quot;Denard went out after injuring his wrist/hand against Illinois. He did it while passing (and rolling out as the pocket collapsed).&quot; LOLOL The pass was a designed roll out. There was no pocket. Never desgned as a dropback pass. And with that we know exactly how much value to place on your knowledge and understanding of the game of football. &quot;With all this great west coast pro style stuff happening . . . .&quot; Yes, because the object of the game is to be exciting rather than to win. How well did that work over the last 3 years? The offense scored 31 point this weekend on the road against the NCAA's #12 scoring defense and its #9 defense in terms of total yards, and yet the MCC are complaining <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;rpt=IA_teamscordef&amp;site=org&amp;div=IA&amp;dest=O</a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;rpt=IA_teamtotdef&amp;site=org&amp;div=IA&amp;dest=O</a> Go watch your boy on CBS. GN&amp;GL


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

Cousin Eddie -- why do you insist on being the contrarian, even when you're wrong? Denard went out after injuring his wrist/hand against Illinois. He did it while passing (and rolling out as the pocket collapsed). In other words, he was running a play he shouldn't have been running when he got hurt. The &quot;protective pocket&quot; was where he got hurt in the previous game as well. Your argument is falling apart. Awesome. With all this great west coast pro style stuff happening, Denard still has about 1000 fewer passing yards this season than at the same point last season. And one more INT than all of last season. And, I wouldn't talk about his rushing stats since you aren't winning that battle either. Do you think Borges is adapting to the strengths of our offense? Of course you do, because you'll make every apology in the book for one of Hoke's guys. Thank goodness we have a top 20 defense.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

TruWCiMFHfan wrote: &quot;Now Denard is getting hurt while trying to be a pocket passer. It's really counterproductive.&quot; Nope. You, apparently, did not watch the game, nor most of the season, nor much of last season. Hits on two consecutive plays put him out of the game yesterday. The first was a designed run around the left end. The second was a rollout to the right. The pocket protects him. It makes him less vulnerable to injury. And we knew this based on last year's experience, where his missed playing time in 11 of the 12 games running the offense of the WCiMFH. Only a TruWCiMFHfan would think otherwise. GN&amp;GL


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

I can't agree more with Rufus. Denard's production waned against better defenses under Rich, as expected, but they didn't drop off THIS much. Denard looks tentative in the pocket. He should be taking off and running but you know the coaches are probably telling him not to run, to hang in the pocket. Denard is like a fish out of water with this offense. I've been beating my brains trying to figure out why Borges insists on running ANYTHING under center besides 3rd or 4th and 2 or less. Now Denard is getting hurt while trying to be a pocket passer. It's really counterproductive.

Mush Room

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

The Michigan defense gave up 452 yards against Notre Dame, 438 against Northwestern, 333 against Michigan State, 311 against Purdue and 302 against Iowa. The defense is much improved and improving, but it's the offense that's winning games. Denard is still the best player on the field and I fail to see why anyone would want this kid to transfer.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:30 a.m.

Me thinks Brady will find bigger, meaner and more talented O line men starting next year and into the future. This line does O.K. with zone blocking which is what Rich Millen recruited them for. They are overwhelmed by legit Big 10 D lines, just like they have been for the last 4 years. Seems like power football was never on of RR's trademarks. Pretty sure being able to power run at the goal line will be on the top of Hokes list this summer.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:55 a.m.

Hoke and staff have shown a pretty good knack for making do with what they have. I agree they'll do even better when Michigan starts rolling in the more traditional Big 10 offensive line guys. And as Michigan re-establishes its reputation as a factory for NFL offensive linemen the recruits will come knocking. Rodriguez's concept of spread and speed was not entirely without merit. Oregon did a pretty fair job of beating Stanford tonight (with the help of 5 turnovers by Stanford). Rodriguez's fault was giving up size and strength. Size and speed are *not* necessarily exclusive. I think Hoke, Borges and Mattison know this. I think we will see some reasonably quick teams with pretty good size and strength.