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Michigan football avoids second-half meltdown to beat Illinois

MLive- Flint/Saginaw/Bay City logo MLive- Flint/Saginaw/Bay City 10/12/2019 By Aaron McMann, mlive.com

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Life was good for the Michigan football team through two quarters of football.

It had established a run game, opened up the pass and continued its dominance on defense.

Then came the second half.

A five-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 8:57 remaining in the fourth quarter put an end to a scoreless drought that threatened the game and Michigan’s season, lifting the 16th-ranked Wolverines to a 42-25 win over Illinois on Saturday.

The Fighting Illini had scored 25 unanswered points prior to that play, a stretch that began late in the first half, a half in which Michigan totaled 355 yards of offense, marinated in the third quarter and spilled into the fourth quarter.

With 12:50 to play, Illinois had cut Michigan’s lead to 28-25 before the Wolverines embarked on a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive led by Shea Patterson. The senior quarterback (11-22, 194 yards) accounted for 55 of the drive’s yards himself, including passes of 12 and 18 yards to Tarik Black and Peoples-Jones, respectively, and a crucial four-yard carry on fourth-and-3.

WR Nico Collins out; McCaffrey, McKeon travel to Illinois

Patterson tacked on a 1-yard touchdown with 6:21 left for insurance, after the Michigan defense recovered an Illinois fumble on the goal line. But the defense had trouble with long, time-churning drives before that, with the Illini converting on a 15-play, 80-yard drive late in the third quarter that cut Michigan’s lead -- which was once 28-0 -- to 28-17.

The Wolverines (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten) answered with a fumble on the first play of their next drive, one of three on the day and two in which they lost, when Tru Wilson was stripped on a 5-yard carry. Running back Zach Charbonnet, who got off to a fast first-half start, turned the ball over in the first half when Michigan had a 21-0 lead.

It was a stark contrast to the first half, when Michigan opened a 28-0 lead on nine-program defined “explosive” plays. The offense was able to open up the run-game early, on Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins, and rushed for 250 yards in the first half. Both finished with career days, rushing for 125 and 116 yards, respectively, and a touchdown each.

By the end, Michigan rushed for a season-high 295 yards. Patterson also hit receiver Ronnie Bell (3 catches, 98 yards) for a 71-yard touchdown throw, the longest play of the season from scrimmage for the Wolverines. The first-half effort gave the unit a dose of confidence, especially after only scoring 10 points last week in a win over Iowa, only to have it erased for a 20-minute period in the second half.

Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) was energized by receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, who had five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Matt Robinson, starting in place of the injured Brandon Peters, was 16-of-25 for 192 yards and a touchdown.

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©2019 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

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