Michigan linebacker Jordan Glasgow describes his fumble recovery in the fourth quarter Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Champaign, Ill. — Michigan’s defense was feeling good about itself after the 10-3 win over Iowa last week.
The Wolverines had eight sacks and held the Hawkeyes to one yard rushing. A similar display of work was expected on the menu when the faced Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium with quarterback Brandon Peters, the Michigan transfer, on the bench with an injury, and the Illini really only had as a big threat, running back Reggie Corbin.
It was starting to look like a long day for the Illini as Michigan jumped to a 28-0 start when, with 55 seconds left, the Wolverines gave up their first touchdown in 10 quarters.
And then the third quarter happened.
Michigan would end up winning, 42-25, thanks in part to a couple big defensive plays late in the game, but it was the defense that allowed Illinois to score 25 unanswered points and pull within three in the fourth quarter.
“Honestly, as a defense, we kinda lost our edge a little bit, which you can’t do,” linebacker Cam McGrone, who tied for a team-high 11 tackles said. He also had a forced fumble. “It was kind of like breaking down. We all talked and we all got back into our heads.”
The moment it all finally hit the defense was after Illinois converted on the two-point conversion to pull within 28-25 with 12:45 left in the game.
“It was after they scored that two-point conversation, everybody kinda started like, ‘Wow, we’re not really trusting each other at that moment,’” McGrone said. “After we got back to the sideline and got the talk, it was all good.”
The talk? Oh, The Talk. That would be defensive coordinator Don Brown talking to and at the defensive players.
“He just told us to lock in and play our game,” McGrone said.
Michigan’s defense had plenty to clean up. In the third quarter, the Illini outgained Michigan 114-11 and were 3-of-5 on third down after going 0-of-7 in the first half.
Michigan was shutout in the third, 10-0. There were also a number of careless defensive penalties during Illinois’ scoring drive to make it 28-17 at the end of the third. Michigan had a defensive substitution penalty, Khaleke Hudson was called for holding on a third-down play when Ambry Thomas had a pass breakup in the end zone, giving Illinois a first down, and Aidan Hutchinson went offside.
“At the start of the third quarter, we started to get a little sloppy, not playing like how we really can,” McGrone said. “We weren’t putting ourselves in the best position some plays. Just execution.”
Linebacker Jordan Glasgow, who also had 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and punt block, said the defense didn’t buckle when the Illini got within three.
“We know we’re never out of the game when we’re leading,” Glasgow said. “We as a defense feel we can make plays to help our offense and make plays and help us win. The game got close, and the defense made some great plays late that allowed us to pull away and secure the victory.”
McGrone said that as soon as they felt the heat, and once Brown had The Talk with them, momentum changed.
“Once the pressure was on we,” McGrone said, clicking his fingers, “we got back into it right away.”
The Wolverines had put together a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown scoring drive after Illinois got within three points, when McGrone forced a fumble that Jordan Glasgow recovered. Michigan was unable to convert that turnover into points, but on Illinois’ next possession, quarterback Matt Robinson was sacked and Mike Danna forced a fumble that Carlo Kemp caught at the 1-yard line.
One play later, Michigan scored again, giving the Wolverines two touchdowns in two and a half minutes.
Michigan needed a couple big plays at the end of a second overtime to secure a tough win against Army earlier in the season. And the Wolverines got a final push from the defense at Illinois.
“They had some momentum and you have to respond to that,” Glasgow said. “That’s the most important thing. They were deep in their territory and then we made two turnovers on two plays. That’s how we responded when the game got close.”