By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
After coming off a bye week, Michigan had another easy opponent in their path helping to avoid any let downs due to the week off.
But unfortunately for Illinois, the Wolverines didn’t have any rust to shake off. Michigan handled Illinois from nearly start to finish on Saturday for a 41-8 win.
“I just think our team really played well today, the execution today both offensively, defensively, special teams, we were just executing well I was really impressed with the first three drives of the game,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said.
It didn’t take long for Michigan to get on the board–and it didn’t take much longer for them to get out to a sizable lead. The Wolverines scored on their first four possessions while the Fightning Illini continued to punt the ball away.
On the second drive of the game, freshman running back Chris Evans found a hole in the offensive line and ran the ball for 16-yards. Evans took a helmet-to-helmet hit and laid on the ground barely moving for a couple of minutes. Evans would eventually walk off under his own power but didn’t return to the game.
Harbaugh said in his press conference that he saw Evans at halftime and that he looked good but didn’t say if he would miss any time.
On the next play, Wilton Speight found freshman tight end Tyrone Wheatley in the end zone for a touchdown. The catch was Wheatley’s first career reception and touchdown of his career.
Early in the second quarter Michigan was driving down the field again. Speight hit senior wide receiver Amara Darboh in the middle of the field for a 27-yard pass that took the Wolverines down to the Illini seven yard line.
Two plays later, senior running back De’Veon Smith found the end zone on a four-yard run to put Michigan ahead 28-0.
Illinois got on the board early in the fourth quarter when Jeff George Jr. threw a 43-yard pass to Malik Turner for a touchdown. It took George Jr. until the third quarter to record his first completion of the game in his first career start.
Harbaugh was extremely pleased with his pass defense against Illinois not allowing a passing yard til the third quarter.
“At one point I looked up and there was zero yards passing somewhere around the half, through the second quarter, that speaks volumes, the pressure was good up front I thought our guys played well, executed extremely well,” Harbaugh said.
Speight had an excellent game, completing 16-of-23 passes for 253 yards and throwing for two touchdowns. Both of his touchdown throws went to tight ends as senior Jake Butt caught Speight’s other touchdown pass.
Sophomore running back Karan Higdon had one of his best games at Michigan rushing for 106-yards on eight carries and getting to the end zone once. Higdon’s 45-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter was one of the best rushes Michigan has had all season long.
Amara Darboh led the Wolverines receiving with 99-yards on five catches. Along with Wheatley recording his first catch, freshman Nate Johnson also hauled in his first career catch as well.
The win keeps Michigan tied atop the Big Ten East standings and should keep them in the top four in the Associated Press rankings.
Michigan enters rivalry week as next Saturday the Wolverines travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Even with the Spartans having a disappointing season there is nothing more they would like then to ruin their arch rivals season.