Michigan vs. Illinois score, takeaways: No. 3 Wolverines stave off upset on late FG to remain undefeated
Michigan barely stayed alive in the College Football Playoff race thanks to a tough test from Illinois
No. 3 Michigan needed a fourth-quarter comeback to avoid an upset loss at home to Illinois one week before meeting No. 2 Ohio State in The Game. In the end, the Wolverines remained undefeated with a 19-17 victory over the Illini thanks four second-half field goals from kicker Jake Moody, including a 35-yard game-winner with 9 seconds remaining.
Michigan jumped out to a quick lead, moving 75 yards on its first possession to go ahead 7-0. The Wolverines put together a couple of other long drives in the first half, though neither ended in points. Ahead 7-3 and in position to score again, Michigan saw running back Blake Corum move the ball inside the Illinois' 20-yard line only to fumble after being drilled in his left knee. Corum left the game, and though he made a brief appearance in the third quarter, he did not play after that.
The Illini took advantage in the third quarter putting together two touchdown drives behind RB Chase Brown to take a 17-10 lead. Those scores were the first touchdowns the Wolverines have allowed in the third quarter all season. When the fourth quarter began, it was the first time Michigan trailed in that period during his unbeaten campaign.
Its defense stood firm from there as the Wolverines put together three field goal drives to avoid the loss and keep both its undefeated season and College Football Playoff hopes alive. Michigan improves to 11-0, while Illinois' third-straight loss drops it to 7-4.
1. All eyes will be on Blake Corum
We'll never know how this game plays out if Corum doesn't exit, but it's not difficult to see how it impacted the Michigan offense today. In five first-half possessions with Corum on the field, Michigan scored only one touchdown but had 206 yards of offense in 33 snaps (6.24 yards per). In six possessions without Corum, Michigan had 170 yards in 45 snaps (3.78 per). None of the six drives without Corum covered more than 54 yards, and only the final two reached the red zone.
Corum began his day with a 37-yard carry on the first snap of the game. He caught a simple screen pass on Michigan's second drive and took it for 41 yards. The Wolverines offense had only one other play of at least 25 yards in the game, and it clearly struggled to find ways to move the ball consistently in his absence.
Despite missing over half the game, Corum finished with 108 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and a touchdown. Complicating matters was the absence of backup Donovan Edwards, who didn't suit up due to injury. Now Michigan goes into Ohio State week with the status of its Heisman-hopeful running back in the air. Given how much difficulty the Wolverines had reaching the end zone without him against a strong Illinois defense today, Corum's status for next week's game is a significant storyline to watch as the week unfolds.
2. Michigan hurt by lack of explosive passing plays
The Wolverines offense entered the game ranked 86th nationally in explosive play rate in the passing game at 14.3%, and it was still a problem today. The biggest play in the passing game was the 41-yard screen to Corum, who caught the pass behind the line of scrimmage. There were other completions of 27, 22, 20 and 16 yards, but of the 85 yards gained on those four receptions, 65 came after the catch.
When it comes to pushing the ball down the field vertically, Michigan's receivers struggled to get separation. When they were open, McCarthy (18/34, 208 yards) struggled to find them. It didn't cost the Wolverines a win today, and it hasn't all season, but it's a lot harder to beat elite teams without an explosive passing attack in today's landscape.
3. Illinois fell just short of Bret Bielema's first statement win
Illinois won't be in a good mood after this game. Yes, it came close to pulling off the upset, but it didn't. Now it's lost three straight to fall to 7-4, putting a damper on what had been a terrific start to the season. Plus, while Bret Bielema's Illini rebuild seems to be far ahead of schedule in only his second season, the Illini were still missing a statement win. Beating No. 3 Michigan on the road would have reached the goal, and the Illini were nine seconds away from getting it.
There will be some criticism of questionable calls that went in Michigan's favor, but Illinois had plenty of chances to put the game away and didn't. You don't pull off upsets like this by giving your opponent a chance to beat you, and Illinois gave Michigan too many chances.
That said, it was still an impressive performance by an Illinois defense that's been one of the best in the country all season but had fallen into a rut the last few weeks due to injuries. Michigan's 376 yards of offense is its second-lowest of the season, behind only a 327-yard game in its 27-14 win over Iowa.
4. Michigan now 42-1 when leading at half under Harbaugh
It was very close to being 41-2. The lone loss came in Harbaugh's first season at Michigan, when this happened:
MICHIGAN WINS 19-17
Final: No. 3 Michigan 19, Illinois 17— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) November 19, 2022
THE KICK IS GOOD
Michigan takes a 19-17 lead with 9 seconds left. It looks like Michigan is going to avoid disaster.
Jake Moody is lining up for a 35-yard FG
Michigan forces a 3 and out
Tommy DeVito scrambles for a near 1st down on 3rd down but a holding call brings it back and puts Illinois in a 3rd and 17. As you'd expect, the Illini fail to convert and have to punt. Michigan does burn its final timeout, but it has the ball at the UM 48 with 2:15 to play. The Wolverines only need a FG.
Deep breaths. Here we go!— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) November 19, 2022
Michigan has to settle for another FG
After converting on 4th down, the Illini defense holds firm. A loss of yards on 1st down is followed by two incompletions (one drop, one bad throw) and Jake Moody kicks a 33-yard FG to make it 17-16 Illinois with 3:14 to go. Michigan has all three timeouts remaining.
1st Down Michigan
Michigan to go for it on 4th and 4
A field goal would only cut it to one, and Jim Harbaugh isn't looking to shorten the deficit. Illinois calls timeout. Big play coming up.
JJ McCarthy avoids disaster
After dropping a snap on 3rd down, McCarthy picks up the loose ball, rolls out, and finds Cornelius Johnson for an 11-yard gain to pick up the first down. Michigan is at the Illinois 29 with 5:56 left to play.
😅— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) November 19, 2022
Michigan gets a stop
Facing a 4th and 8 at the UM 33 Illinois opts to go for it rather than attempt a 50-yard FG into the wind. It's a QB Draw but Tommy DeVito is stopped after picking up only two yards and the Wolverines get the ball back at the UM 31. The Illini were aggressive that drive, but it didn't pay off. There's still 8:06 left to play.
Illinois has driven into Michigan territory
After running all day, the Illini are using play-action well this drive, and have a 1st down at the UM 35.
Michigan went 75 yards on 7 plays on its opening drive for a TD. It's gone 227 yards on 49 plays with two field goals since.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 19, 2022
Michigan forced to settle for three
The punt return gets them in scoring position, but after picking up a 1st down, the Wolverines offense was stopped by the Illini defense. Jake Moody's second FG of the day -- this one from 41 yards -- makes it a 17-13 game with 12:31 to play.
Ronnie Bell with a big return
Is that the spark Michigan needed? Bell returns an Illinois punt 40 yards to the UI 38 to give the Wolverines great field position when they really need it.
This is the first time all season Michigan has trailed in the fourth quarter
Michigan goes 3 and out
The Big House is quiet as the Wolverines don't get anything going following the Illinois score. Illinois gets the ball back at the UI 43, and Michigan is in desperate need of a stop.