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Michigan vs. Illinois recap: Wolverines roll to 7-0

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
Khalid Hill punches the ball into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown.

The Wolverines entered today's game against Illinois as heavy favorites and right from the get-go, they showed why, scoring a touchdown in their first four possessions and rolling to a 41-8 victory.

Wilton Speight was dialed in in the first half. He finished the day 16-for-23 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Wolverines down the field with regularity early on.

The defense wasn't bad, either, as Illinois freshman quarterback Jeff George Jr. didn't complete his first pass of the day until the second half, a 43-yard strike into Michigan territory. The Illini found themselves on the Wolverines side of the field, but they weren't able to convert until it was too late, as George hit Malik Turner for a 43-yard score in the fourth quarter with his team down 34-0.

The Wolverines outgained the Illini, 555-172, including 271-77 on the ground.

Karan Higdon led the way on the ground, carrying the ball eight times for 106 yards and a score.

Michigan will roll into it's noon kickoff with rival Michigan State next Saturday in East Lansing.

Higdon on the loose

Karan Higdon has gotten little hype, but whenever he touches the ball, good things seem to happen. The sophomore running back reeled off a 45-yard run for Michigan's first touchdown of the second half.

Higdon has carried the ball six times for 100 yards and that score.

With 8:48 left to play, the Wolverines lead, 41-8.

Fake punt mishap leads to first points for Illinois

Up 34-0, MIchigan decided to run a fake punt near midfield, but Ben Gideon fumbled the snap and wasn't able to recover, setting Illinois up with possession at the Michigan 43.

Jeff George Jr. wasted little time, hitting Malik Turner for a 43-yard touchdown and Illinois' first points of the day. The Illini also scored on a two-point conversion attempt where George hit Zach Grant in the end zone.

Those points end a run of 119 consecutive points by Michigan against its opponents.

With 10:22 left to play, Michigan leads, 34-8.

O'Korn enters

It appears Michigan has seen enough of its starters. John O'Korn is now in the game at quarterback as the Wolverines will try to milk the clock during the fourth quarter.

Wolverines add another field goal

The Michigan offense used nine plays to march the ball down to the Illionis 10, but they were turned away on third down and forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal from Kenny Allen that stretches the lead to 34-0 with 43 seconds to play in the third quarter.

The Wolverines have had all their regulars out there on offense in the third quarter, but they've been unable to punch one in the end zone.

Illinois just can't find the promise land

Well, they had their chance...again. The Illini played it safe after the turnover with run plays on first and second down, setting itself up with a third down and short, but two incompletions later, the Michigan defense had itself another victory.

With 5:02 to play in the third quarter, Michigan still leads, 31-0.

Michigan returns the favor

The Illini will get a chance to right the wrong when it fumbled away its chance at points. Wilton Speight hit Jehu Chesson for a nice gain out near midfield, but the senior wide receiver fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Illinois, who will take over at the Michigan 37.

Illinois fumbles away chance at points

Jeff George Jr. finally completed his first pass of the day, a 43-yard strike to Malik Turner that got the Illini into Michigan territory. After another six-yard completion, things again went awry for the Illinois quarterback, who couldn't take the snap from his center and ended up fumbling away a chance for points as Michigan recovered.

The Illini have been in Wolverine territory multiple times today, but they've still yet to come away with points. Michigan leads, 31-0, with 6:54 to play in the third quarter.

Offense stalls in Illini territory

The Michigan offense picked up three first downs on its first four plays on its first drive of the second half, but they weren't able to put any points on the board as Wilton Speight was sacked on third down and Michigan was forced to punt.

Speight actually threw a really nice ball to Amara Darboh, but what should have been pass interference was overlooked by the referee, setting up the ill-fated third down sack.

Defense forces three-and-out

The Michigan defense picked up where it left off in the first half, forcing Illinois to go three-and-out to open the second half.

The Wolverines offense will get started at its own 24 for its first possession of the second half.

Michigan settles for field goal before the half

Jeff George Jr. didn't expect the Michigan pass rush to get to him as fast as it did and he paid dearly for it, overthrowing a screen pass and being intercepted by Dymonte Thomas on the first play after the Wolverines had punted for the first time today.

De'Veon Smith worked the offense down inside the Illni 5, but the Wolverines were forced to settle for a 23-yard Kenny Allen field goal as time expired in the first half with Michigan leading, 31-0.

Wilton Speight had quite the first half to lead the Wolverines, going 11-for-14 through the air with 165 yards and two touchdowns.

First half stats

Rush: Michigan 151, Illinois 70

Pass: Michigan 165, Illinois 0

First downs: Michigan 17, Illinois 3

Possession: Michigan 21:32, Illionis 8:28

Wolverines punt for the first time

The Michigan offense stalled for the first time today after getting back into Illinois territory. Carroll Phillips dropped Wilton Speight for a loss of nine yards to effectively end Michigan's march and force the Wolverines to put for the first time today.

With 2:24 left before halftime, it's 28-0, Michigan leads.

Defense bends, but it doesn't break

Ke'Shawn Vaughn finally found some room to run out of the wildcat offense, reeling off a 45-yard run down the sideline to get Illinois to the Michigan 36. Once again, however, the Wolverine defense was up to the task, forcing a punt three plays later.

The Michigan offense will take over at its own 8.

Smith hammers it home for six

De'Veon Smith punctuated another easy drive for Michigan with a seven-yard touchdown run to give the Wolverines a seemingly insurmountable 28-0 lead with 11 minutes to play in the second quarter.

Smith had a 13-yard run, Karan Higdon a 16-yard gain and Wilton Speight found Amara Darboh for a 27-yard strike to get Michigan down to the Illini 7.

The Wolverines have outgained the Illini, 262-13

Defense flexes its muscles again

A roughing the pass penalty got Illinois into Michigan territory, but once again, the Wolverines defense only bent slightly only to shut the door three plays later.

The stellar Michigan special teams were able to ruin any chance the Illini had of pinning the offense deep, getting a hand on the punt, allowing it to travel less than 20 yards. Michigan will start its next possession at its own 38.

Speight and offense firing on all cylinders

Wilton Speight is having fun playing football right now, leading Michigan down the field before Khalid Hill capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put Michigan up 21-0 with just over a minute to play in the first quarter.

Speight hit Jehu Chesson for 13 yards and Amara Darboh for 21 yards before showing off his feet and picking up a first down on a 10-yard scamper to the Illinois 6. The Michigan quarterback is 7-for-8 passing for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

Wolverine defense answers first challenge

Kendrick Foster reeled off a 17-yard run to pick up Illinois' first first down of the day, but all that really did was tick off the Michigan defense, who dropped Ke'Shawn Vaughn for an 8-yard loss on the very next play before forcing another Illinois punt.

That didn't take long

After a kick-catch interference penalty was called on Illinois after it punted away the ball, Michigan took over possession at the Illinois 44 and found pay dirt in just two plays.

Chris Evans reeled off a 16-yard run before collapsing to the field after taking a hit to the head. He was helped off the field, but appeared to be walking around under his own power on the sidelines.

On the very next play, Wilton Speight found Tyrone Wheatley for a 21-yard score that gives Michigan a 14-0 lead with 7:52 to play in the first quarter.

Illinois needs something to go its way quickly before this one gets out of hand.

Illini go three-and-out

Jeff George Jr., son of longtime NFL quarterback Jeff George, made his debut as starting quarterback for Illinois.

Maybe next time it will go better for the freshman.

After offsetting penalties on the first play, Illinois couldn't get anything going, netting a loss of three yards on its first possession. It tried running out of the wildcat twice with Ke'Shawn Vaughn, but a bad snap on second down put the Illini behind the chains and George threw an incomplete pass on third down.

Michigan strikes first

On third and goal from the four, Wilton Speight dropped back and found a wide open Jake Butt coming across the middle of the field to spot the Wolverines an early 7-0 lead with 10:23 to play in the first quarter.

Michigan showed off its versatility during its first drive of the day, putting in three different guys to take snaps.

Speight got the start, handing off to DeVeon Smith for rushes of seven and eight yards. Shane Morris came in to pitch the ball to Ty Isaac and threw a nice block on a six-yard gain and Jabrill Peppers took a snap and plowed forward for four yards.

The big play on the drive came when Speight found Eddie McDoom on the outside. The shifty freshman receiver danced along the sideline before cutting back to the middle of the field for a 33-yard gain down to the Illini 20.

Michigan and Illinois set for battle

The Wolverines are fresh off a bye week and heavily favored to route Illinois today at The Big House.

Despite the appearance of an overmatched opponent, I wouldn't expect Michigan to come out without an edge, as they'll want to be running on all cylinders heading into their showdown next week in East Lansing with the Spartans.

The last time Michigan took the field, it blew out Rutgers, 78-0, meaning Lovie Smith's Fighting Illini (2-4, 1-2) could be in for a long day in Ann Arbor. The visitors will have to control the pace of the game right from the get-go by running the ball and completing short passes if it plans to have any chance of hanging around with the Wolverines today.

Follow all the action here with updates throughout the game.