ANN ARBOR, Mich. — So. Close.
In the past two decades, Illinois Football has had some big moments. An upset over No. 1 Ohio State. A walk-off against undefeated Wisconsin on Homecoming. A thrilling 9OT win at Penn State.
It was seconds away from topping them all.
On a two-game losing streak and entering a hostile Big House as 17.5-point underdogs, the Fighting Illini found themselves leading 17-16 late in the fourth quarter.
Only seconds away from an earth-shattering win over the undefeated No. 3 Wolverines, the Illini defense needed one more stop.
With the game on the line, Michigan QB JJ McCarthy converted a 4th and 4 near midfield. From there, a few questionable calls led the Wolverines to the Illini 18-yard line with only 13 seconds left.
The only thing standing between Illinois and one of the greatest upsets in program history was Michigan kicker Jake Moody.
The All-American kicker delivered a no-doubter from 35 yards out, dropping the hearts of Illini faithful everywhere.
Using Moody’s heroics, McCarthy’s crucial throws and clutch defensive stops, No. 3 Michigan outlasted Illinois 19-17.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Michigan started the game just like everyone expected the No. 3 team in the nation would. A 7-play, 75-yard drive was capped off by Blake Corum’s 18th rushing touchdown of the year.
Multiple 3-and-outs by Illinois to start the game gave everyone the impression that this game would get out of hand quickly. However, despite out-gaining Illinois 146 yards to 22 yards and possessing the ball for 12:10 in the first quarter, Michigan only scored once.
The 7-0 score stagnated until the Illini led a drive deep into Wolverine territory, and a false start on fourth down forced the Illini to settle for a field goal.
Going into half, the score was only 7-3. Despite Blake Corum’s 103 rushing yards and a touchdown, the Wolverines couldn’t get much else going on offense.
Late in the second quarter, Corum went down with a leg injury and was forced out of the game. He only ran the ball once in the second half before staying out the remainder of the game.
Corum’s fellow Heisman candidate Chase Brown came into the game leading the nation with 1,442 rushing yards. After one half, he had 16 rushes for only 47 yards.
Just like in every other game this season, Brown stepped up when the team needed him most. His first six rushes in the second half amounted to 36 yards, and an 8-yard touchdown run tied the game at 10 apiece.
Brown didn’t stop there. An electrifying 37-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave the Illini a 17-10 lead.
In one of the toughest environments in college football, Illinois had all the momentum.
However, once the fourth quarter started, Michigan played defense like its life depended on it. The Illinois defense limited Michigan to two field goals in back-to-back drives, but the offense couldn’t give them any breathing room.
Illinois failed to score at all in the fourth quarter, allowing Michigan to chip away at the lead. Three Wolverine field goals were enough to scrape past the Illini, keeping the No. 3 team in the country undefeated.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
SETTING THE TONE: On the first play from scrimmage, Corum outran Illini defenders en route to a 37-yard run. This play gave the Wolverines momentum, and they only took 2:10 to score the first touchdown of the day.
FOURTH DOWN STRUGGLES: Early in the second quarter, Illinois led a productive drive into Michigan territory for the first time of the afternoon. However, Chase Brown was stuffed on 4th and 1. With the score 7-0 at the time, Illinois had its best chance to cut into the lead, but that chance vanished.
FUMBLE!!: With Michigan driving towards the end of the first half, Corum went down with an apparent ankle injury on a run. After further review, it was revealed that Corum also fumbled right before he suffered the injury. Corum only saw one carry for the rest of the game.
PENALTIES: Only needing one more first down to seal the game, Illinois QB Tommy DeVito scrambled his way to one yard shy of the first down marker. However, a holding penalty was committed by RG Zy Crisler, forcing the offense back to a 3rd and 17. The holding resulted in an Illini punt that led to Michigan’s game-winning drive.
On this final drive, DB Devon Witherspoon was called for pass interference, much to the dismay of Witherspoon and head coach Bret Bielema. This crucial penalty was the difference between a 35-yard and 50-yard field goal.
No. 3 Michigan
JJ McCarthy (QB): 18-34, 208 yards
Blake Corum (RB): 18 rushes, 108 yards, TD
Junior Colson (LB): 6 tackles, 0.5 TFL
Tommy DeVito (QB): 21-30, 178 yards
Chase Brown (RB): 29 rushes, 140 yards, 2 TD
Isaac Darkangelo (LB): 7 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Alex Palczewski started for the 63rd time in his career, extending his Illinois and Big Ten record for career starts.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 19, 2022
Palczewski trails only Appalachian State's Thomas Hennigan (65, 2017-21) for the most starts in FBS history.#Illini | #HTTO
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bielema with a not-so-subtle reference to his frustration with the refs.
Third quarter Chase Brown was DOMINANT.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Illinois wraps up the regular season next Saturday in Evanston against Northwestern.
Game time and TV channel have not yet been announced.