Crazy OT loss haunts Illini with Michigan in town

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In Hoke’s offensive system, Robinson’s big-game run threat has been limited. Nine games in, the quarterback’s 880 yards are nice, but less than half of the 1,702 he had in 2010.

“I think it’s a combination of what people are giving us and allowing us to do,” Hoke said. “But he’s still a major factor.”

While the offense isn’t likely to score 67 points, this Wolverines defense doesn’t look as if it has a 65-point day in it, either.

Michigan this season is allowing about 15 points a game, less than half of last season’s 35. And it’ll be facing an Illini offense that hasn’t scored in the first half in three games _ all losses that have dragged Illinois down from unbeaten and nationally ranked to also-ran within their own conference.

The defense, defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said, has made big stops a priority this season and it’s paid off.

The 24-16 loss to Iowa offers a good example.

Down 17-6 at halftime, Michigan had little room for error in the second half. The defense responded, giving up one second-half touchdown and quickly shutting down the Hawkeyes on their four other possessions. None of them lasted more than five plays and two were three-and-outs.

“I think our mentality is just different than what it has been in years past,” Van Bergen said. “Coaches kind of allow us as defensive linemen, me and Mike (Martin), to pin our ears back and go.”

“When we get to third and short, fourth and one,” he added, “we feel very confident that no team is going to run for that yard on us.”

In last season’s win over Illinois, the Wolverines didn’t have many of those kinds of stops, but they did have the one that mattered most, at the goal line on the last play of overtime.

After a touchdown run pulled Illinois within two points, Scheelhaase dropped to throw on the conversion attempt but, under heavy pressure, wound up flinging a desperation pass that fell to the turf.

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino says now he knew Michigan would come with an all-out blitz, and called a play with that in mind and saw a receiver pop open in the back of the end zone. But Scheelhaase never had time to find him.

The Illini didn’t have a better day offensively in 2010, but it didn’t count for a thing.

“That two-point play probably haunts me more than anything,” Petrino said. “It feels like crap if you lost _ it doesn’t matter how many points you score.”

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