Observations on a HUGE Michigan victory over Illinois, 45-20

1-The 2nd quarter play calling by Carr and Parrish was simply awesome. The trick play from Walker to Gonzalez and the throw from Cross to Walker were two of the biggest.

2-Navarre is really maturing as our leader! He looks smooth and fluid, and is learning when to take a sack as well as how to maneuver in the pocket.
He was 13 of 26 for 172 yards and 1 TD with no pick, and he took sevaral sacks. We had 75 plays for 405 yards, 21 first downs and 6 touchdowns. We dominated time of possession even though we were behind by three minutes at half, we came out on top by four and a half minutes. We only had 137 yards rushing, but we did well when we needed rushing yards. We were 6 of 16 in 3rd down conversions after going 3 & out our first 4 possessions.

3-Our receivers are really looking stellar! Walker had 6 catches for 108 yards and 1 TD; looks like a 1st team All-Big Ten player. It was great to see Bellamy get involved with his first TD catch of the year. Bell is extremely dangerous, and looked awesome again on the reverse. Askew is so dangerous on the screens. Our tight end position if very productive, four tight ends caught six passes. We have a lot of weapons here, and we still need to get Edwards, Massaquoi, Combs and Butler more involved. Possibly, in some blow-out, we can.

4-Who needs Chris Perry? Askew had 80 yards on 19 carries with 2 rushing TDs. Cross added 50 yards. Yes, we do need Perry, but it was nice to see how productive we could be without his services. Underwood did fumble when we were ahead by 25, but he is looking to be another solid backup.

5-Probably the biggest reason why we won was our defense, they were simply awesome. Illinois is an excellent offensive team, and we held them to 6 of 20 on 3rd down conversions and zero for one 4th down conversion. The biggest statistic was 27 rushes for 25 yards. Kittner was 20 of 39 for 244 yards, but no TD passes. They ran 73 plays for 300 yards, and had only 12 first downs. Rocky Harvey had only 14 yards, and he ran for the winning touchdown in 1999 when we were beat 36-29. The clincher was when June forced a Kittner fumble with us ahead 31-13, but when we responded with a field goal after we held them to a field goal at 28-13, it was also huge. Foote and Hobson are definitely Big Ten 1st teamers. Even Todd Howard looked good today; he only was beaten once or twice. The 48 yard pass that led to their first field goal was ugly, but we held. Overall, our pass rush and pass coverage was more than adequate especially when you can hold a good offensive team like Illinois with a pro quarterback like Kittner to 13 points. Markus Curry and Marlin Jackson did a nice job at the corners along with LeSueur and Howard. It was also great to see Brandon Williams get a pick near the end of the game. Our reserves were looking good on both sides of the ball.

6-Our special teams looked great. Epstein had his best game punting with 8 punts for 40.4 yard average. He nailed all extra point and his one field goal attempt. Curry is an exceptional punt returner, a north-south runner, 7 returns for 79 yards. Even Todd Howard looked good on a kickoff return. We didn't allow much in kick coverage either, 7 kickoffs for 109 yards and 7 punt returns for 25 yards. It looks like Jackson has replaced Drake on kickoffs.

7-We couldn't have been more ready for this game. We got a slow start offensively like Washington, but we really played well after the 1st four possessions. Illinois was ready, too, but we simply outplayed them. We also executed our game plan much better than they did. We only had 5 penalties and none that were costly. We still have 3 critical Big Ten games left, and all in November: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. We can win the Big Ten title, but we will need someone to help us, possibly Illinois. Somebody must beat Northwestern for us to win the title. If we can pull off a 10-1 record with the title, we might make the top ten and a possible BCS game. State will be really tough in East Lansing!!!