Michigan's explosive offense raises the bar

Michigan wide receiver Darryl Stonum was sitting in class Monday morning when he heard some chatter from several members of the school's men's basketball team.

One of them, sophomore point guard Darius Morris, eventually leaned over.

"He was like, 'We've got to put some points up when we play Illinois, huh?'" Stonum recalled. "'It's a little challenge now.'"

Stonum and his teammates created quite the challenge for their hoops brethren after putting on a historic offensive performance in Saturday's win against Illinois. Michigan prevailed 67-65 in three overtimes in the highest scoring Big Ten game in league history.

The wild contest at the Big House set several records, including:

  • Most combined points (132) ever in a game involving Michigan

  • Michigan records for combined points in a half (62) and a quarter (49), as well as combined total yards (1,237)

  • Michigan records for single-game passing yards (419) and first-half passing yards (262). The Wolverines' 676 total yards marked the fourth-highest total in team history

  • Illinois' 65 points were the most ever scored by an opponent at Michigan Stadium

  • Longest game in Illinois history and tied for the longest game in Michigan history

But the milestone that stuck with Stonum, first reported by ESPN Stats & Info, is that the 132 combined points were more than the two schools' men's basketball teams had scored in any of their previous three games.

The last two basketball contests didn't come close to producing the kind of offense we saw Saturday on the gridiron. Illinois beat Michigan 51-44 in the teams' only meeting last year, and the Illini notched a 60-50 win in the 2009 Big Ten tournament.

"It was a real explosive day," Stonum said. "I was surprised we were able to put that many points up. It was just a blast out there playing."

Michigan's offense had shown the potential to explode before Saturday. The Wolverines came in ranked fourth nationally in offense (518.3 ypg). They had 19 touchdown drives that lasted less than two minutes and six touchdown drives that had taken three plays or fewer.

The big obstacle appeared to be an Illinois defense that entered the game ranked 12th nationally in points allowed (16.8 ppg) and 15th in yards allowed (301.4 ypg).

But when Michigan studied the Illini D, it saw opportunities.

"During film, we saw a few weaknesses of their defense, and we just tried to exploit them," said Stonum, who had four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown Saturday. "We didn't know we were going to be that successful, and I'm glad we were."

Quarterback Denard Robinson was able to exploit the weaknesses, but he did so primarily with his arm.

"We know a lot of teams key on his running ability," Stonum said, "so we tried to do a lot of play-action, a lot of fake runs and tried to get him to pass the ball a little bit. The very first play, it was a fake run and he pulled up and flipped the ball right over to Roy [Roundtree] and he was wide open.

"That's the benefit of having a dual-threat quarterback. He opens up the whole football field. You never know what you're going to get."

Robinson racked up a career-high 305 pass yards and three touchdowns on only 10 completions, and Michigan's offensive surge continued even after he left the game with concussion-like symptoms in the fourth quarter. Tate Forcier guided Michigan on four scoring drives, including three in overtime.

Forcier, who stepped up late in several wins in 2009, had 42 pass yards and 20 rush yards in the overtime sessions.

"He was real fired up," Stonum said. "He loves being out there playing with us."

Who wouldn't after Saturday's show?

"It was crazy," Stonum said. "That just shows how explosive our offense can be."