|The team celebrates Jeremy Gallon's 71-yard catch-and-run.|
Denard Robinson hasn't thrown an interception in the last two games. It's funny how that works. Michigan has made a commitment to running the ball the last couple games, rather than trying to have Robinson throw for the win. I know Robinson has had longer runs and more important runs, but his 49-yard touchdown in this game might have been his single greatest individual effort. He made a couple separate jump cuts before bursting out to the left and outrunning the defense.
What's up with Jerald Robinson? Almost every outgoing wide receiver for the past couple seasons has pointed to Jerald Robinson as the next year's breakout star, and he continues to look completely harmless. He did have an 8-yard reception in this game, but he also had another drop. As a redshirt sophomore, that gives him 4 receptions for 47 yards in his career.
The defense was excellent. Injury to Scheelhaase aside, Michigan held the Illini to just 134 total yards - 105 rushing, 29 passing. The Wolverines also grabbed an interception, recovered a fumble, recorded 9 tackles for loss, and notched 3 sacks. Jake Ryan was the most disruptive force with 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Middle linebacker Kenny Demens has played significantly better since the first couple games, and yesterday he had 8 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 interception. A huge chunk of Illinois' yards seemed to come when backup quarterback Reilly O'Toole first entered the game and hit Michigan with several screens and draws.
Every running back had a good game . . . except Fitzgerald Toussaint. Even Toussaint had a touchdown, but he only averaged 3.4 yards/carry and lost a significant chunk of playing time to Thomas Rawls. I'm not sure what's up with Toussaint, but Rawls had 9 carries for 90 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown. Even Justice Hayes had 10 carries for 66 yards, although most of his carries came after Illinois had thrown in the towel. Hayes has decent speed, but he's not a very physical runner . . . and he fumbled the ball without even getting touched. Luckily, it bounced right back up into his hands.
Michigan's backup quarterback situation is shaky. Russell Bellomy struggled somewhat. He let a snap squirt right through his hands, and he completed just 1/3 passes. I'm not a huge fan of what I've seen out of Devin Gardner as a quarterback, and I do think Bellomy has potential down the road . . . but boy, does he look shaky right now. He wasn't helped out by his receivers, though, who had their hands on both incompletions; but Bellomy looks afraid to push the ball down the field, and he's not very crisp running the plays. I'm going to try to enjoy Denard Robinson while I can, because the quarterback play might be really iffy for a couple seasons.
Dennis Norfleet is too fast. He blew past everyone except the punter . . . and when the punter stepped up to make the tackle, Norfleet didn't even give himself time to shake; he just tried to run right through the punter, which doesn't work when you're only 165 lbs. Regardless, he had yet another moment where Michigan fans just think "It's only a matter of time." He did muff a kickoff return (which he still managed to pick up and gain 12 yards), but that 42-yard punt return was fun to watch.
The defensive line continues to improve. It was obvious that they would improve, but they're better than I thought they would be at this point in the season. Quinton Washington had 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Craig Roh had 3 tackles and half a sack. Jibreel Black had 3 tackles, but he showed impressive speed in chasing down Scheelhaase before driving him to the ground on the play that caused the quarterback's concussion.
Jeremy Gallon screen fun. Gallon took the throwback screen (which Michigan runs once or twice every game), made a couple people miss, got some nice downfield blocking - especially from walk-on tight end Mike Kwiatkowski - and raced 71 yards for a touchdown. Gallon had just that one reception, but that was just one more piece of evidence why Michigan needs to get him the ball early and often.
This was a nice confidence booster before the Michigan State game. The Spartans looked pretty bad in a loss to Iowa, and Michigan obviously looked very good. At this point in the season, Michigan clearly looks like the better team. Hopefully the momentum can carry over into next Saturday's game, which has been announced as a 3:30 p.m. kickoff to be shown on the Big Ten Network.