Saturday, October 12, 2019

Green’s five takeaways from No. 16 Michigan’s 42-25 win over Illinois

Photo Credit: Geno Green

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

While Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten West) put together a 25-point run after giving up the first 28, No. 16 Michigan (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten East) used a pair of fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter to hang on in a 42-25 win at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL. Here are my five takeaways from Saturday for CSO.

1) Roller-coaster of emotions for Michigan’s defense:

Despite a thorough first-half domination, the third quarter proved to be a locker room hangover for the Wolverines as they appeared to be on the verge of letting the Illini take the lead in the third quarter.

Under defensive coordinator Don Brown’s tutelage, Michigan did not break as it found new life with a pair of back-to-back fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter by Jordan Glasgow and Carlo Kemp, respectively. Despite Glasgow’s recovery, he opted to defer to teammate Cam McGrone for the forced fumble.

“The much bigger play was Cam getting the ball out and I just happened to be in a good position to make a play on his play,” Glasgow said. “That was the first of two turnovers we had, which resulted in touchdowns. We were able to make big plays and the result says itself.”

“They just keep fighting. There was a big momentum swing there in the third quarter where [Illinois] made some plays and did turn it over,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Our guys rose to the challenge and were tested mightily in which they did not flinch.”

2) Change of pace for Michigan’s offense:

Illinois’ defense looked nothing like the imposing unit in its previous five games as Michigan’s offense mixed things up with a run-heavy attack, which allowed Patterson to get things going through the air with a pair of touchdowns on rollout plays in the first half to go into the locker room up 28-7.

The Wolverines’ lead trimmed to 28-25 in the third quarter and found themselves on the ropes going into the fourth quarter.

Michigan’s offense became more aggressive as it went for it on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter and relied on the legs of Patterson, when the other running backs’ momentum came to a screeching halt. Harbaugh did not hesitate when it came to using Patterson on the fourth down calls to keep the respective drives going, in which one of them ended in Wolverine touchdowns.

“We put the ball into Shea Patterson’s hands and is tenacious in those types of situations,” Harbaugh said. “It felt really good that he could pick it up for us. The offense was hungry to do it and the guys came through despite the wind, which made it hard to through at times.”

3) From undisciplined to a re-energized Illini group in the third quarter:

Illinois looked out of sorts on both sides of the ball as penalties cost the offense numerous opportunities to get into scoring range with punts on its first seven drives of the games and would be flagged six times for 45 yards.

After rotating with Isaiah Williams in the first half, redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Williams took all of the reps in the second half and looked like a whole different athlete as he finished 16-of-25 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown. Despite an improved performance after being thrown into the fire at Minnesota on Oct. 5, Williams might be counted on again as the starter, but with a more imposing opponent in No. 7 Wisconsin looming for homecoming on Oct. 19. 

4) Wolverines’ run game alive once more:

After being a non-factor in the running game with 70 total yards in the previous three games, Zach Charbonnet responded when needed the most with a career-high 116 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Sophomore Hassan Haskins also got in on the fun with a game-high 125 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.

205 of its season-high 295 yards on the ground came in the first half and will need to bottle the effort and spread it like a genie if Michigan hopes to avenge a 42-13 loss at Penn State from two seasons ago next Saturday.

5) Lovie don’t live here anymore:

It appears that most of the love and leniency Illinois coach Lovie Smith had when he took the coaching job in 2016 appears to be running on thin ice despite the third quarter rally as its losing streak extended to four games.

Smith’s record in three-plus seasons in Champaign stands at 11-31 (.262) and with hard-hitting teams, such as Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa on the schedule, it might be yet another season where the Illini could be shut out of a bowl game.

While there were 12 million reasons not to fire Smith last season, the buyout would not be as significant, but could be as late as 2021 before anything happens in terms of a coaching change.

Will the Illinois faithful have that amount of patience to wait for potential change? Only time will tell.