Michigan @ Illinois: Box Score Breakdown

Things are so easy when you break the down by the numbers, and that is what Jeff Murdock does every weekend after the Illinois football games. He sits down in front of a stat sheet and uses it to help in his analyzation of the Illini. This week he noticed there was nothing pretty on Saturday's stat sheet for the Illini, and once again an opposing running back had a career game.

The Fighting Illini put up a valiant fight against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday afternoon as many of their fans were thinking about what would be starting next door in Assembly Hall when the final seconds ran off the clock inside Memorial Stadium. I don't think anyone told the football players that many of the people at the game were just there to break up their tailgating time, and the time they would spend in Assembly Hall watching the Illini Basketball team's Mid-Day Madness and the unveiling of the Illinois Basketball All-Century Team.

The first quarter started out the way almost every observer thought it would, with Michigan scoring 10 straight points, three on an Illinois fumble that occurred on the first play from scrimmage. The second quarter changed the face of the game as Illinois scored 17 straight points, and took the lead into halftime. To start out the first half, Illinois kicked to Michigan, who drove the ball down the field before stalling and turning the ball over on downs. On just the third play, Illinois' Jon Beutjer threw an interception that led to a Michigan touchdown. The next Illinois drive after the Wolverine touchdown last just three plays and lost twelve yards before they had to punt the ball back to the Wolverines. On that possession, Michigan went on a ten play eighty yard drive to score another touchdown. It was more of the same for the Illini offense, now down 22-17 they once again went three and out and punted to the Wolverines. On that possession, Michigan proceeded to go on a sixteen play, 91 yard drive to for the game's final touchdown.

The inability of the Illinois offense to sustain a drive for longer than three plays in the third quarter put the Illini defense at a huge disadvantage. The Illini defense spent much of the third quarter on the field, as they only got rests for three Illini offensive possessions that totaled two minutes and twenty seconds of clock rest time for the Illini defense. Yes, the defense could have stopped the run better once again, but if the Illini offense was able to sustain a drive in that third quarter (with the wind, I might add) the game may have had a different outcome. This loss cannot be placed solely on the defense, the offense needs to shoulder much of the blame as well.

  Michigan Illinois
First Downs 23 19
Rushes - Yards 61-294 30-98
Passing Yards 114 156
Passes Comp-Att-Int 14-27-2 20-40-3
Total Offense (Plays-Yards) 88-408 70-254
Fumble Returns - Yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns - Yards 2-14 0-0
Kickoff Returns - Yards 3-73 3-61
Interception Returns - Yards 3-58 2-100
Punts (Num - Yards) 3-114 4-189
Fumbles - Lost 0-0 2-1
Time of Possession 36:36 23:24
Third Down Conversions 10-20 5-16
Fourth Down Conversions 2-4 1-2
Red Zone Scores - Chances 5-7 2-3
Sacks By: Num - Yards 1-7 1-8

Just quickly looking at the numbers, it is pretty easy to see why Michigan was able to win this football game, they dominated the time of possession. Turnovers were key for both teams, but they evened out at the end of the game as both teams had three turnovers on Saturday afternoon. It was Michigan's ability to generate and sustain long drives versus Illinois' inability to sustain a drive or gain any offensive momentum that tells the story of Saturday afternoon's contest in Memorial Stadium.

Illinois headed into Saturday afternoon's game against the Wolverines down their starting running back EB Halsey due to a knee injury. In the last few games Pierre Thomas and Jason Davis had already shown that they were able to sustain the Illini's ground game, so many were not worried how the Illini ground game would react without Halsey. Backing up Thomas on the day was fellow sophomore Marcus Mason, who also has game time experience from last season, but he did not see much action on Saturday afternoon outside of kick returns.

  Attempts Total TDs Long Average
Pierre Thomas 20 68 1 14 3.4
Jason Davis 6 15 0 6 2.5
Jon Beutjer 4 15 0 18 3.8
Total 30 98 1 18 3.3

Pierre Thomas: This was Pierre Thomas' first start on the season. He totaled 139 multipurpose yards, 68 on the ground, 26 through the air, and 45 on kick returns. Thomas scored Illinois' only two touchdowns on the day with a 1 yard run in the second quarter and a 2 yard pass reception also in the second quarter. Saturday afternoon also saw Pierre Thomas set a career-high with seven receptions, eclipsing his previous career-high of 2 receptions.

The Illini air attack was slowed down by the swirling winds at Memorial Stadium. Both Illinois and Michigan had trouble throwing the ball all afternoon, and it showed on the stat sheet.

Comp-Att-Int Yards Touchdowns
Jon Beutjer 20-39-3 156 1
TEAM 0-1-0 0 0
Totals 20-40-3 156 1

Jon Beutjer: After not announcing his starting quarterback all week, Ron Turner went with sixth year senior Jon Beutjer as the starting quarterback for the Michigan game. The wind reeked havoc on Jon all day, but he was also not crisp at all. In the third quarter, he reverted back into the Jon Beutjer that would stare down one receiver in three or four wide receiver sets, and throw the ball right at him. This staring down of receivers led to his three interceptions. Jon was also not accurate all day with his throws as he was hitting secondary receivers a second or two late, thus turning five to ten yard gains into two yard gains.

With the passing attack grounded by the swirling winds in Memorial Stadium, it was hard for any of the Illinois receivers to get good numbers on Saturday afternoon. When you combine the elements with the superior athletes Michigan had in the defensive backfield, it was a very difficult day for all the Illini receivers.

Receptions Yards TDs Long
Jason Davis 7 69 0 13
Pierre Thomas 7 26 1 13
Kendrick Jones 2 22 0 15
Franklin Payne 2 20 0 16
Mark Kornfeld 2 19 0 14
Totals 20 156 1 16

Mark Kornfeld: Mark was a receiver that Jon Beutjer would lock in on when a key first down was needed. Seven of Mark's nine catches this season have resulted in first downs, including his fourteen yard catch in the second quarter.

Sure, when you look at the stat sheet, you will see that the Illini allowed 294 yards on the ground. 237 yards to Michael Hart, but the defense was on the field for over 36 minutes, and almost the entire third quarter. The Illini defense just got tired, and eventually broke thanks to the pressure the Michigan offense was putting on them.

Solo Assists Total
Mike Gawelek 4 12 16
Justin Harrison 6 6 12
Anthony Thornhill 5 5 10
Morris Virgil 3 6 9
J Leman 3 5 8
Matt Sinclair 2 6 8
Ryan Matha 3 3 6
Mike O'Brien 2 4 6
Alan Ball 2 3 5
Mike Maloney 1 4 5
Chris Norwell 0 5 5
Kelvin Hayden 2 2 4
James Cooper 2 0 2
Joe Mele 1 1 2
Arthur Boyd III 0 2 2
Xavier Fulton 1 0 1
Brian Brosnan 0 1 1
Josh Tischer 0 1 1
Russ Weil 0 1 1
Josh Norris 0 1 1
Brian Schaefering 0 1 1
Scott Moss 0 1 1
Taman Jordan 0 1 1

Mike Gawelek: Gawelek recorded a career high 16 tackles on Saturday afternoon and was Illinois' leading tackler for the first time this season.

Matt Sinclair: Matt Sinclair was supposed to be the senior leader of this defense, but he has been the same player all season. He misses tackles, and he takes bad lines to the ball carrier, only to catch up to him after he has already blown past him and is ten yards past when Matt should have tackled him. Matt is the poster boy for what has been wrong with this Illinois defense over the last three years, poor tackling and poor positioning.

Kelvin Hayden: There were two plays where Kelvin Hayden could have locked down a Michigan runner for a much shorter gain than they would have had, but he didn't do it. Instead, Hayden went to strip the ball instead of the tackle. The Michigan player broke free from the tackle and gained yardage they should not have gained. With the problems the Illinois defense has had tackling, they should not be going for the football, they should be wrapping up the ball carrier and making the tackle. Once the defense has perfected that, then they can go for the turnover.

Xavier Fulton: The true freshman defensive end played a pretty good game for the Illini on Saturday afternoon before Michigan adjusted to his speed rush from the end. On the first two series for the Wolverines, Fulton used the speed rush to blow by the Wolverine offensive line resulting in one pass break up and two quarterback hurries. The Wolverine offensive linemen eventually figured out that Fulton's only move was the speed rush, so they would let Fulton blow by them and then block him out of the play to the backside of the pocket. Fulton showed promise and the athletic ability that looks great on the defensive line, but at this point he is a one move defensive lineman that can be taken out of the game by an offensive lineman that knows how to stop the speed rush.

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