Five NIU Turnovers Key Michigan Victory

Only 35 yards separated Michigan from the Northern Illinois Huskies Saturday afternoon in The Big House. But the Wolverines forced five big turnovers and the score wasn't that close as Michigan cruised to a 33-17 victory.

In a day where both offenses were dominant, Michigan gained 447 yards to 411 for the Huskies. And Northern Illinois actually outgained the Wolverines on the ground, 211 yards to 208. But the Huskies kept turning the ball over at crucial spots while the Wolverines did a much better job of taking advantage of their opportunities.

Michigan took the opening kickoff and promptly drove 74 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown including 6-9 passing by quarterback Chad Henne, highlighted by a 15 yards screen play from Henne to Steve Breaston and a 14 yard touchdown pass from Henne to Jason Avant.

Northern Illinois promptly answered with an 86 yard drive of their own to kick a 24 yard field goal to make it 7-3, Michigan.

Michigan wasted no time answering, going 78 yards in six plays to take a 14-3 lead as the first quarter ended. Key plays of the drive were an 18 yard pass from Henne to Avant, and a 34 yard screen pass to Mike Hart for the touchdown.

Not to be outdone, Northern Illinois took the ensuing kickoff at their own 20 yard line, and on the second play Husky RB Garrett Wolfe ran 76 yards for a score to cut the lead to 14-10.

Michigan answered once again, going 70 yards in 13 plays to make it 20-10 with 8:48 to go in the half. Jason Avant made a key catch on a third down pass thrown high over the middle, and also was interfered with on a pass into the end zone. Mike Hart scored the TD on a 2-yard run, but the extra point was blocked.

Northern Illinois went three and out in their next possession and had to punt (their only punt of the game).

Michigan got that ball back at their own 42 yard line with 7:44 to go, and following a 26 yard pass from Henne to Avant, Garrett Rivas missed a 48 yard field goal attempt.

Northern Illinois got the ball at their own 31 yard line with 5:10 left, but on their second play Pat Massey forced a fumble and Brandent Englemon recovered at the Michigan 31. Huskie turnover #1.

Michigan got three first downs but was forced to punt from their own 46 yard line with 1:25 left to go in the half. Walk-on Ross Ryan, who won the Michigan punting job, got off a 42 yarder (Michigan's only punt of the game) -- and after Darnell Hood knocked the ball loose from the Huskie returner, Ryan himself dove in and recovered it at the NIU 14 yard line. Huskie turnover #2.

After two Mike Hart running plays, freshman Kevin Grady scored from a yard out to make it Michigan 27, Northern Illinois 10 at the half.

For the half, Mike Hart had 83 yards on 19 carries and Chad Henne was 17-25 passing with 2 TD's. For the Huskies, running back Garrett Wolfe had 103 yards on 7 carries.

At the end of the third quarter the score was STILL 27-10. Northern Illinois got the ball first in the second half but Michigan blocked a field goal attempt; Michigan's ensuing drive was ended when Kevin Grady was stopped on a 4th and 1; then Northern Illinois fumbled at their own 31 (turnover #3), but four plays later Michigan's Kevin Grady fumbled at the NIU 4 yard line.

The fourth quarter started with Northern Illinois throwning an interception to Leon Hall at their own 15 yard line (turnover #4). Michigan responded with a 38 yard field goal by Rivas to make the score Michigan 30, Northern Illinois 10 with 13:16 to go in the game.

On their next possession Northern Ilinois turned the ball over again on their own 42 as LaMarr Woodley stripped the ball and recovered it as well (turnover #5). After three first downs, Rivas kicked a 23 yard field goal to make the score 33-10 with 2:53 to go.

Northern Illinois took the kickoff and drove 80 yards for a TD to make it 33-17, but Michigan ran out the clock for the win.

For the game, Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe gained 152 yards on 17 carries. For Michigan, Mike Hart ran for 117 yards on 27 carries and Chad Henne was 20 for 31 for 227 yards and 2 TD's. Jason Avant made 9 catches for the Wolverines for 127 yards and a touchdown.

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