Michigan stressing red zone efficiency after rough showing vs. Illinois last season
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan's win over Illinois last season is most remembered for the performance of its defense.
The Wolverines' 31-14 win in Champaign, Ill. was the game that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison finally awarded his unit the distinction of a true "Michigan defense."
What it's not remembered for, though, is the Wolverines' performance on offense -- most notably in the red zone.
"It hurt us," Michigan senior receiver Roy Roundtree said. "(Offensive coordinator) Al Borges talked about that after the game.
"It's something we have to get better at."
Michigan was 3-for-6 inside the red zone last season at Illinois, and its folly of errors in and around the Illinois goal line would have likely been disaster for the Wolverines if not for the performance of the defense.
In the second quarter alone, Michigan had a turnover on downs at the Illini one, a fumble on the Illinois 21 and a missed 38-yard field goal.
The Wolverines went into the half up 7-0, when they should have probably been up 24-0.
Last week against Purdue wasn't exactly sparkling either. Michigan missed a field goal, and was forced to settle for three other kicks after failing to close out positive drives with touchdowns.
"That's been a big part (of the week)," Hoke said. "Right now, (Illinois tied for third) in the league in red zone defense. They're playing well down there."
The Illini have allowed opponents to finish red zone drives with points 76.3 percent of the time this season, tied with Michigan State. The only two teams with a better success rate are No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Michigan.
Part of that success comes from Illinois' stout play on third down, where the Illini are second in the Big Ten by getting off the field on third down more than 65 percent of the time.
Two of Michigan's hiccups in the red zone against Illinois last season were a result of mistakes by Denard Robinson. He took a four-yard loss on fourth and goal from the one, and fumbled after taking a sack on third down minutes later.
Robinson's two weeks removed from his nightmare at Notre Dame, and says he's ready to cash in positive drives with touchdowns this week -- not field goals, and certainly not turnovers.
"They're great on third down," Robinson said. "They're probably one of the best in the country on third down and in the red zone. We've got to prepare for that.
"We've struggled in the red zone this season, and we have to step it up. ... We've go to finish. You get all the way down there, you've got to finish."