ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Chris Perry helped Michigan get the blowout it wanted.
Perry ran for three touchdowns and 140 yards and Steve Breaston
returned a punt 74 yards for a score as the 17th-ranked Wolverines
beat Illinois 56-14 Saturday.
Michigan (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) led 35-0 at halftime and avoided a
letdown after rallying from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to
beat Minnesota last week in the biggest comeback in school history.
The Wolverines were supposed to rout Indiana last month after an
emotional game, but they were flat during a 31-17 win after losing
"We learned a lot from the Indiana game," Perry said. "I
don't know if I'd call this a businesslike blowout, but we knew
what we were capable of doing against Illinois and we did it."
The last time the Illini (1-7, 0-4) struggled as much as they
have this year was 1997, when Ron Turner's first team was 0-11.
Illinois, which has lost conference games by an average of 32
points, has dropped six straight games since beating I-AA Illinois
State. Just two years ago, the Illini won 10 games, the Big Ten
title and played in the Sugar Bowl.
"We lost it up front," Turner said. "We didn't stop them
right off the bat. They are a very good, physical football team. We
couldn't get anything going."
Perry, who has run for 999 yards and scored 14 times this
season, became the seventh Wolverine to surpass the 3,000-yard
rushing mark. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr was asked why he took Perry
out in the third quarter, 1 yard away from the 1,000-yard mark.
"I didn't want him to get the big head," Carr joked.
On the game's opening drive, Perry ran to his right, cut back
across the field and leaped into the end zone on a 25-yard run.
"It was a well-blocked play on both sides," he said.
Perry dived over a pile of linemen for TDs from the 2 on
Michigan's second drive, and from the 1 with 11 seconds left in the
Breaston's second punt return for a TD this season was
"It was fun," Breaston said.
The redshirt freshman fielded a bouncing punt on the right
sideline, juked linebacker Joe Bevis, cut across the field, raced
down the left sideline, then darted to his right to score
"I'm kind of speechless on that," Perry said. "I don't know
if you can even describe it. He shook the first guy about five
Michigan scored more than 50 points for the first time since
beating Indiana 58-0 on Oct. 14, 2000.
"We started fast and I don't think we stalled," Navarre said.
Illinois' Chris Pazan started in place of Jon Beutjer, who
missed the game with a sore back. Pazan was 11-of-23 for 100 yards
with an interception. The redshirt freshman had thrown just 16
passes this season.
"My job is to get the ball into the playmakers' hands, and I
didn't do that," Pazan said. "I missed some throws."
Turner was pleased with Pazan's poise.
"He handled himself very well," he said.
E.B. Halsey, who ranked seventh in the Big Ten in rushing before
the game, was limited to 12 yards on eight carries. Halsey left the
game in the third quarter with a right knee injury. Mark Kornfeld
caught five passes for 77 yards.
Pierre Thomas ensured the Illini would not be shut out with a
1-yard run midway through the third quarter, and his 7-yard run
late in the game made it 49-14.
"We were very emotional coming in, but a couple bad breaks hurt
us," Illinois Kelvin Hayden said.
Safety Marlin Jackson, who left the Minnesota game with an
undisclosed injury, was not in uniform Saturday. Carr said he hoped
Jackson would play next week against Purdue.
Jackson's backup, Jacob Stewart, left the game in the third
quarter with an injury and was carted off the field in the fourth.