October 12, 2012

Game preview: Michigan vs. Illinois

Michigan has a date with destiny circled for Oct. 20, but before the Wolverines can begin to avenge four straight defeats to Michigan State, it has to go through Illinois. The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, are reeling, falling in three consecutive contests.

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A week ago at this time, Michigan fans were wondering how the Wolverines would bounce back from a 13-6 loss at Notre Dame in which the offense turned the ball over six times, five alone from senior quarterback Denard Robinson.

Illinois' fans weren't sure to expect from their own team after back-to-back blowout defeats to Louisiana Tech (52-24) and Penn State (35-7), and the Illini themselves sought to address the tailspin by calling a players-only meeting at the team hotel, hoping to spark a momentum shift in time to salvage the season.

"We just talked about how much hard work we've put in, the offseason, the way we were competing in one-on-one battles, and that we just need to stop making the mistakes that beat ourselves," said senior Michael Buchanan, a standout defensive end. "I think the guys responded to that.

"We talked about little things. It wasn't calling people out but putting an emphasis on the fact that everyone is important. Even the guy that isn't playing, he needs to give energy to the team.

"We did a good job getting our juice back, our fire back."

Sort of. The Fighting Illini battled to a 10-7 deficit against the Badgers through three quarters, but then the wheels came off, again, as UW outscored the Orange and Blue 21-7, totaling 177 yards in the fourth quarter alone.

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