Breaking down Saturday's win at Michigan -

Breaking down Saturday's win at Michigan

Saturday was a historic day for the University of Illinois football team as Ron Zook's squad pulled out a 45-20 victory at Michigan Stadium over the Michigan Wolverines.

Let's look at what came out of the big victory for the Orange and Blue:

-- First are the records: Illinois moves back over .500 to 3-2 overall and moves back to .500 in Big Ten play at 1-1.

-- The Illini won in the Big House for the first time since 1999, and get this, the fifth time in the last 50 years. I'll let you read that last part again.

-- Illinois' 45 points is the most scored in Michigan Stadium since 1991.

-- The Orange and Blue were virtually mistake-free, turning the ball over zero times while the offensive line allowed zero sacks.

-- Illini quarterback Juice Williams accounted for all but 80 of Illinois' 501 total yards.

-- Williams' 431 total yards marks the first time that an Illinois player has passed for over 300 yards and rushed over the century mark in the same game, but that's not all. Williams' output set a Michigan Stadium record and tied Sandy Schwab for the most yards ever against the Wolverines in any stadium (and Michigan has been playing football for 129 years).

Williams wasn't the only one bolstering his stat line. Here's some quick news and notes:

-- Wide receiver Arrelious Benn had a career-high receiving output with 122 yards.

-- Derek Walker had the first Illinois blocked field goal since 2005.

-- Line backer Brit Miller had 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss, both career-highs.

-- Safety Donsay Hardeman had a career day with eight tackles.

-- Illinois defensive lineman Josh Brent had his first ever fumble recovery.

One day after the win for the Illini, let's take a look at the tape:

Road games are nice, but...

The Illini played in front of 109,750 raucous Wolverine fans on Saturday, marking the second straight game the Orange and Blue have played in front of more than 100,000 people.

Even though a lot of the players have admitted that playing in front of huge, hostile crowds get them fired up, one Illini player has admitted he is ready to go back to Champaign for two straight weeks.

"I'm gonna be real excited because the last couple of weeks I've been getting booed," junior cornerback Vontae Davis said. "I thought I was liked and loved by everybody, but it seems like I'm not. It seems like a lot of fans dislike me away from (Memorial Stadium)."

Davis is one Illinois player that always seems to have a huge smile on his face to go along with his happy personality. But after games at Happy Valley and Michigan Stadium, Davis looked like he was somewhat down when meeting with the media post-game.

Even though he was ecstatic about the win Saturday, Davis said he will be even more excited when he gets to hear from his friends in Memorial Stadium next week when the Illini take on Minnesota.

"This time you know I'll get a lot of I-L-L (cheers) and I've been missing that," Davis said.

He is very good percentage-wise

Talk after the game in the media room was centered on the renewed effort of the Illini defense.

A question mark coming into Saturday, the Illinois D answered its doubters emphatically holding the Wolverines to 319 yards of total offense to a team that beat the then-No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday.

Vontae Davis pointed to the defense staying relaxed after the Wolverines got up early with a 14-3 lead.

"Coach Zook also preaches, '(The Wolverines are) gonna get their yards," Davis said. "And I got beat for a touchdown, but I know I'm a DB so I gotta have a short-term memory. My mindset is (that) it's behind me. There's nothing I can do about it. I try to look forward to what's going to come in the future of the game so it's just (about) withstanding the onslaught."

The touchdown scored on Davis by Greg Matthews in the first quarter was only the second he's given up while wearing the Illini uniform. He says that his success is based on his mental outlook.

"I'm hard on myself ... so I try to round up my percentage (of touchdowns given up)," Davis said. "Percentage-wise, I'm doing pretty good, but that can't happen no more. I have to be one of the best (defensive backs) in the country. That's how I think."

The first touchdown scored on Davis was by in a game last year former Indiana Hoosier and current Buffalo Bill wide receiver James Hardy.

Miller receives the magic touch

Even though Davis thinks that the superb defensive output had to do with a relaxed mindset, linebacker Brit Miller, who had nine tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss, had a different idea.

He said his inspired play came from an encounter with former Illini All-American linebacker Dana Howard, who was on the Illinois sideline and approached the senior after he missed a tackle on a first quarter punt.

"He touched me," Miller said. "He said, 'Break your feet down young man."

Now, when Miller was explaining this, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dan Disch asked Miller why he didn't break his feet down when Disch told him that he needed to do that.

Miller's answer: "It was Dana Howard."

Miller, while chomping on a post game apple, said from there he knew it was going to be a good day.

"And I was like Dana Howard just touched me," Miller quipped, "I'm going to have a good game. It was awesome."

Juice and Co. respond well to challenges from the Zooker

Coming off a loss to open conference play last week against Penn State, Illinois head coach Ron Zook said he challenged some of his key players to play better.

With their 25-point victory, all of the cogs in the Fighting Illini football machine were doing their job.

Zook explained the method he employed during the week.

"I challenged a bunch of them, and I really think your best players have got to play the best (and) they've got to play the best all the time," Zook said. "So we challenged our best players to play the way that they're capable of playing and the other ones will follow."

And if those mentioned players keep playing as well as they did Saturday the Illini could be a force down the road. Just look at the stat lines for some of the key Illini:

QB Juice Williams: 431 yards total offense, 4 total TDs

LB Brit Miller: 9 total tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL

WR Arrelious Benn: 6 receptions, 122 yards receiving

CB Vontae Davis: 9 total tackles, 2 TFL, 1 forced fumble

Williams explained the challenge as Zook broke it down to him.

"On a team you have great players, good players and role players," Williams said. "He really came to us and said, 'Great players have to play great all the time.' They can't take games off. That was the challenge to us. We had to step up to the plate and play better than we had in our last two games."

Mission accomplished -- at least for this week anyway.

Note: Alex Symonds is a journalism student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

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