|Five plays that changed the game|
|Written by Matt Pargoff|
Michigan grabbed its second victory in Big Ten play against Illinois, keeping pace with Iowa atop the Legends Division. The Wolverines’ 45-0 homecoming win was the first shutout since a blow out of Minnesota last season. We take a look at five plays that shifted the game in favor of the Maize and Blue.
Gallon Takes it the Distance: On the Wolverines opening possession, they showed quickly that they meant business against the Fighting Illini. Illinois has had trouble this season defending the pass, and has found itself particularly susceptible against play action. The Wolverines opened up with four straight running plays, and then changed pace, faking a handoff and throwing a screen to Jeremy Gallon. The junior receiver dashed 71 yards to give Michigan its first score of the game.
While Gallon had a strong run after the catch, he was far from alone in putting forward a great effort on the play. Roy Roundtree, Mike Kwiatkowski, Taylor Lewan, Ricky Barnum and Michael Schofield all had good blocks down field to help spring the receiver for the score.
Bring on the Backup: With the contest still close at 10-0 early in the second quarter, Illinois was hit with a devastating blow. While the Wolverines badly outmatched the Fighting Illini, any hope of a comeback for the visiting team rested on senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The signal caller missed two games to injury earlier in the season and the Maize and Blue once again sent him to the sidelines.
Scheelhaase made a great play, dodging defenders and scrambling down the right sideline for a gain of 23 yards. As he cut back to the middle of the field, Jibreel Black and Courtney Avery were able to catch him from behind, sending him roughly to the turf. What should have been a positive momentum builder for the Illini turned into a disaster, as the signal caller had to leave the game with concussion symptoms.
"I grabbed Nate when he came off the field and he said he was all right and wanted to go back in the game," said Illinois coach Tim Beckman after the game. "But he did some things that proved he wasn't all right. Our doctors made the right decision."
Denard being Denard: There are few if any players in college football that can do what Denard Robinson did on the opening possession of the second half. While the Wolverines had solidly controlled the game through the first two quarters, they carried only a 17-0 lead into halftime. On the first drive of the second half, the Maize and Blue moved the ball to midfield, when the senior signal caller put on a show.
The Wolverines ran what could best be described as a quarterback iso play up the middle, with Robinson keeping the ball by design. The blocking up front wasn’t perfect, but the senior made a quick jump cut to the right to avoid a defender, juked a linebacker and cut to his left, dashing 49 yards for the score.
Demens with the Pick: If Robinson’s long touchdown run to start the second half helped Michigan begin to pull away, then linebacker Kenny Demens ‘ interception on the first play of Illinois’ following possession opened up the floodgates. Reilly O’Toole attempted to find tight end Jon Davis up the middle of the field, but Demens was in the way and stole the ball at the Illinois 40, taking it back 13 yards.
The interception was the first of the senior’s career and put the Wolverines in excellent scoring position. Just four plays, the Maize and Blue took advantage of that opportunity with a touchdown.
More Fun with Funchess: After Demens interception, the Wolverines moved the ball down to the Illinois eight yard line. Robinson rolled to his right and lobbed a pass to the back of the endzone for tight end Devin Funchess. The true freshman had already scored two touchdowns this season and he added a fourth on the play.
With two defenders around him and a pass that was high and behind him, Funchess had no trouble twisting around in the air to snag the ball in his big hands. It was the Wolverines’ second touchdown in less than two minutes of game clock time, putting the home team up 31-0 with more than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.