Michigan beats up on another MAC team. Who cares? It”s supposed to beat teams like Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio).
But after losing to Washington the way Michigan lost, then dealing with the emotionally-draining events that took place on September 11, it was good for this team to get back on the field and win.
Even if it was just against Western Michigan.
It was good for a couple of reasons: First, sports has a way of diverting attention from more important events. In this case, it was nice not to think about what happened, what will happen, what should happen For three and a half hours, Michigan was playing football. And though there were reminders of what”s happening and will happen, for the most part, the fans were entertained.
And secondly, winning has a way of soothing a team”s soul after a tough loss.
Michigan”s goal of winning every game was blocked and taken 74-yards the other way two weeks ago. So after getting dumped by Washington, Michigan took advantage of the Broncos.
And in football, that”s the way love goes.
So now that everyone is starting to move on, Michigan needs to prepare for Illinois, because another sloppy performance will result in another loss and regardless of what the score might indicate, Saturday”s performance was sloppy. While losing at Washington was tolerable, few will be satisfied if Illinois beats an unprepared Michigan.
Last year, Michigan could get away with playing sloppily because Drew Henson came to the rescue well, Henson and the referees” definition of what a fumble is.
This year, Drew Henson won”t be coming to the rescue, and the referees won”t be as forgiving.
So what does Michigan need to do to beat Illinois?
It needs to find a passing defense.
If Jeff Welsh can throw for 374 yards, how many yards will Illinois” Kurt Kittner throw for?
While Kittner is not a Heisman contender regardless of what ESPN the Magazine would lead you to believe he”s better than Welsh, and Illinois” receivers are better than Western”s.
What”s even more absurd about Welsh”s passing performance is that Michigan”s front seven played really, really well again. They got to the quarterback often, and when they didn”t, pressure was still applied.
The reality is that Michigan doesn”t have a cornerback who”s capable of defending a wide receiver for an entire game, though freshman Marlin “It”s as easy as 1-2-3” Jackson is beginning to look like one.
Western Michigan proved this on Saturday, just as Washington proved it in the prior game.
When a team doesn”t have a cornerback that can defend a receiver, the safeties need to respect the pass that much more, and all of a sudden the linebackers need to apply pressure and defend the run.
Luckily, Michigan has great linebackers. But even they are susceptible to cracking every once in a while, as Western proved on a simple draw. It took one block on Larry Foote for Broncos running back Phillip Reed to go for 37 yards, because the safeties were helping the defensive backs.
Michigan also needs to solve its special teams problems poor punting, missed field goals, lack of a threat on kickoff returns as well as get a healthy Chris Perry, and start getting the ball to wide receiver Ronald Bellamy.
Regardless, its nice to think about football again.
Raphael Goodstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.