A huge factor in Michigan”s 45-20 win over Illinois was the play of the Wolverines” defense.

Paul Wong
This season, Roy Manning (left) and Michigan have been shutting down opposing offenses with a more aggressive style of play. On Saturday, the Wolverines held Greg Lewis (middle) and Illinois to 300 yards of offense. <br><br>BRANDON SEDLOFF/Daily

After having success moving the ball in the first quarter and the first few minutes of the second quarter, the Fighting Illini were almost totally stymied for the rest of the game. Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner was virtually helpless in the face of a wicked Michigan pass rush and had little or no time to look downfield for his main deep threats, Brandon Lloyd and Walter Young.

For their part, the Wolverines” defenders can sense a marked improvement in their play. Coming off of a nightmarish 2000 season in which Michigan”s defense was repeatedly torched, the performance thus far this season is uplifting for the Wolverines, to say the least.

“This year, I think our defensive mentality is more aggressive,” junior strong safety Julius Curry said. “We”re attacking teams more, and our defensive line is so good this year as far as giving the quarterback pressure. That”s where it starts.”

Michigan”s not-so-secret weapon: Walter Cross has seen spot duty at tailback in his four years at Michigan. But, on Saturday, Cross found a new niche quarterback.

Cross” 22-yard halfback option pass to Marquise Walker gave the Wolverines their first points of the game. At the time, Michigan was struggling mightily on offense, but after Cross and Walker surprised the Fighting Illini, Michigan rolled to victory.

Not surprisingly, Cross was only too happy to talk about his touchdown toss, which nearly fell incomplete when Walker momentarily bobbled the ball in the endzone.

“I was kind of upset,” Cross said with a smile. “He was open, and then he bobbled it, and I thought he had dropped it. But then he caught it.”

When asked what he would have done if Walker had dropped the pass, Cross replied, “I don”t know if I would”ve talked to “Quise the rest of the game.”

Two plays before Cross heaved his scoring pass, Walker threw a pass of his own. After taking a lateral from Jermaine Gonzales who had entered the game at quarterback Walker threw back to Gonzales, who raced 51 yards down the right sideline to the Illinois 21-yard line.

After the game, Walker went so far as to claim that he had a better arm than Cross. Cross” reply to that assertion?

“Of course he”s going to say that,” Cross said, laughing.

Bulletin-board material?: If anyone thought Michigan might be looking past Penn State, think again.

The Nittany Lions are currently 0-3, and both Penn State”s offense and defense have been horrible this year in their first two games alone, the Nittany Lions gave up over 1,000 yards of total offense while scoring a total of just 13 points themselves.

In addition, Michigan has beaten Penn State four consecutive years, including a 33-11 pasting last year. So, what do the Wolverines think of Penn State?

“I know that they have a lot of talent on that team,” junior linebacker Victor Hobson said. “They”re a dangerous team.”

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