-- Senior/junior quarterback John Navarre (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy HS)
led the 14th-ranked University of Michigan football team to a 45-28 victory against Illinois Saturday (Sept. 21) before 69,249 fans at Memorial Stadium. The Wolverines (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who have won 21 consecutive Big Ten Conference openers, are unbeaten in their last eight games at Memorial Stadium.
Navarre had his best road performance as a Wolverine, completing 22-of-37 passes for 264 yards and a school-record-tying four touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Braylon Edwards (Detroit, Mich./Bishop Gallagher HS)
had his second straight 100-yard receiving game, catching four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Fifth-year senior tight end Bennie Joppru (Wayzata, Minn./Minnetonka HS) was named the ABC Player of the Game after equaling his career high with seven receptions for 74 yards and a career-best two TDs. Junior tailback Chris Perry (Advance, N.C./Fork Union Military, Va.) rushed 22 times for 90 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Wolverines forced a season-best five turnovers that led to 21 points against the Fighting Illini. Sophomore cornerback Marlin Jackson (Sharon, Pa./Sharon HS) had a team-high two interceptions and three pass breakups and added three tackles. Fifth-year senior Victor Hobson (Mt. Laurel, N.J./St. Joseph's Prep) paced the defense with eight tackles and one forced fumble.
Illinois grabbed a 3-0 lead as placekicker Peter Christofilakos connected on a career-long 44-yarder on the team's opening possession. The Fighting Illini moved 35 yards in eight plays and took 86 seconds.
The Wolverines defense set up the offense with excellent field position as Jackson intercepted a third-and-13 pass by Illinois' quarterback John Beutjer and returned it 19 yards to the Fighting Illini 15-yard line. Navarre completed a 14-yard pass to Joppru on second down to Illinois' one-yard line. Perry took the pitch from Navarre and went left untouched for the Michigan touchdown.
The Fighting Illini regained the lead, 10-7, as Beutjer completed a 51-yard pass to wide receiver Walter Young down the middle of the field. The four-play scoring drive by the Illini covered 80 yards in 77 seconds.
Michigan answered Illinois with an eight-play touchdown drive capped by a six-yard fade pass from Navarre to senior wide receiver Ronald Bellamy (New Orleans, La./Archbishop Shaw HS) with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter. Starting at their 20-yard line, the Wolverines moved to midfield as Navarre and Edwards hooked up on a 29-yard pass play. Three plays later on a third-and-eight play, Navarre tossed the ball across the middle to Edwards, who weaved through the defense for 43 yards to the Illinois' six-yard line, setting up scoring play on first down.
The quick-strike nature of the first quarter continued with Christofilakos connecting on a 39-yard field goal. The eight-play scoring drive covered 58 yards in 1:26 and trimmed the Wolverines lead to 14-13 with 4:12 left in the opening quarter. Beutjer completed two-of-five passes for 28 yards and tailback Antoineo Harris gained 24 yards to the Michigan 28-yard line before the drive stalled.
U-M increased its lead to 21-13 as Navarre completed a six-yard slant pass to Edwards on a third-and-two play six minutes into the second quarter. The defense provided the offense with a short field as senior strong safety Charles Drake (Los Angeles, Calif./Westchester HS) intercepted a deflected pass by Beutjer and returned it 46 yards to the Illinois 24-yard line. Perry took the handoff from Navarre on four successive plays, gaining eight, two, five and three yards before the scoring play.
The Wolverines extended their lead to 28-13 with 1:12 remaining in the first half as Navarre completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to an open Joppru down the middle of the defense. Michigan moved 69 yards in 10 plays with Navarre completing four-of-five passes for 49 yards. Perry rushed twice for 16 yards and senior fullback B.J. Askew (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain HS) added a pair of three-yard runs.
After a defensive stop to open the third quarter, Michigan's offense took its opening possession and tacked another touchdown on the board as Navarre tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Joppru. Navarre completed all five passes on the drive for 64 yards and Perry gained the remainder of the yardage on the ground, running six times for 29 yards. The touchdown drive was the longest of the season for the Wolverines in terms of plays (12), yards (88) and time of possession (6:07).
With a 35-13 advantage, the U-M defense provided another short field for the offense when Jackson intercepted a batted pass and returned it two yards to the Illinois 10-yard line. The Wolverines increased the lead to 42-13 as Perry scored on a two-yard run with 12:01 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt freshman defensive end Pierre Woods (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville HS) forced a fumble by returner Morris Virgil that senior/junior kicker Philip Brabbs (Midland, Mich./H.H. Dow HS) picked up at the Illinois 24-yard line and returned 23 yards to the one-yard line. The Wolverines were unable to punch it in the end zone and settled for a 21-yard field goal by senior/junior placekicker Troy Nienberg (Ottawa, Ohio/Ottawa Glandorf HS).
The Illini scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to close the scoring at 45-28. Beutjer completed a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd with 7:51 remaining, and Beutjer added a one-yard keeper with 11 seconds left to close out the game.
Michigan takes a week off before returning to Big Ten action Saturday, Oct. 12, against Penn State at Michigan Stadium. Game time and television arrangements have not been set for the 10th meeting between the Wolverines and Nittany Lions.
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423