When it comes to a date with Michigan, Memorial Stadium is no home-field advantage for the Illinois football team.
When it comes to a date with Michigan, Memorial Stadium is no home-field advantage for the Illinois football team. If it's a curse or just an inability to beat a roster of All-America recruits because of a flurry of mistakes and penalties, the Illini came up empty once again in their first network prime-time regular-season game. No. 24 Michigan capitalized on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that set up Michigan's go-ahead touchdown in a 27-17 victory in a Big Ten Conference game Saturday night. "We had opportunities to win the game,'' Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We have to realize there's a lot of football to be played.'' The Wolverines won for the ninth straight time here after scoring on a 13-yard drive set up by Illinois junior Kyle Hudson's drop while attempting to field a punt. Michigan scored two plays later on a reverse where receiver Adrian Arrington completed an 11-yard scoring strike to Mario Manningham with 8 minutes 12 seconds left. Michigan took a 24-17 lead and eventually won for the ninth straight time in this stadium. "I guess he just misjudged it,'' Zook said of Hudson. "That was the straw that broke the camel's back.'' Michigan's dominance over Illinois is remarkable. The Illini haven't defeated Michigan here since 1983. Over the last 50 years, Michigan suffered just one loss in 23 games in Memorial Stadium. Illinois watched an 11-point lead disappear before halftime and never led in the second half. Grange and Zuppke must be rolling over in their graves. Even with Michigan senior tailback Mike Hart -- the nation's leading rusher -- wearing sweats because of a sprained ankle suffered the previous weekend, the Illini lost their second consecutive game and fell to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. Illinois hosts Ball State in the homecoming game Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network). "We always have that 24-hour rule,'' said linebacker J Leman. "We think about a win or a loss for 24 hours, then we move on. Next week defines our season on how we respond to this.'' Bowl eligibility will have to wait another week for the Illini, although it could still be argued that Illinois was ahead of schedule in a rebuild under Zook. "We've all got to remember we can still go 9-3,'' Illini safety Kevin Mitchell said. "That's pretty good considering 2-10, 2-9 and 1-11. As a veteran team, we have to let the young guys know that it's not over.'' Illinois rushed for 137 yards but managed just 116 yards threw the air. Illinois had 10 penalties for 107 yards. Michigan won its sixth straight game and improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. "I'm extremely proud of our team to come in here, fall behind and fight their way back,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I think the only way to describe Chad Henne is courageous.'' The Michigan senior quarterback started his fourth straight game but shared playing time with freshman Ryan Mallett after suffering a stinger in the first quarter. Henne threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Illinois jumped to a 14-3 lead in the second quarter and still lead 14-10 when the game turned on a roughing the kicker penalty and a reversal by the replay official, helping Michigan grab its first lead. After two sacks left Michigan with a fourth and 27 at the 13-yard line, Illini sophomore Joe Morgan was flagged for roughing the punter. The personal foul gave Michigan a first down. Seven plays later, Michigan quarterback Chad Henne lofted a pass in the corner of the end zone. Arrington made a diving catch. The game official called the play out of bounds, but the replay official ruled the catch was made inbounds. The 14-yard touchdown pass gave Michigan a 17-14 halftime lead. John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. For more coverage, read Illini Talk blog at www.sj-r.com and www.pjstar.com.