ANN ARBOR — Michigan linebacker Kenny Demens pointed to the root of his defense’s improvement — its preparation in the days leading up to a nonconference loss at Notre Dame.
That was nearly a month ago, but it set the foundation for the Wolverines’ growth.
“A lot of that goes into our preparation, our practice habits,” said Demens, who had eight tackles in Saturday’s 45-0 win over Illinois. “Against Notre Dame, we had a real good week of practice. We kind of knew that game was one of those games that was good for defense, and we just kept going.”
The Wolverines held Illinois to 105 yards rushing and 29 yards passing. In its last three games, Michigan’s defense has allowed 26 points (an average of 8.6 points a game) and Saturday, Michigan notched its first shutout in more than a year — the Wolverines shut out Minnesota 58-0 on Oct. 1, 2011.
Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan led Michigan’s defense with 11 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss of 16 yards, and 1.5 sacks. Ryan forced a fumble that helped set up Fitzgerald Toussaint’s third-quarter touchdown.
“I think we’re at a good point right now,” Ryan said of his team’s defense. “We’re definitely communicating as a defense and we’re definitely getting to the ball as fast as we can.”
MORGAN’S NEW JERSEY: Desmond Morgan, a sophomore linebacker, will wear No. 48 for the remainder of the season as part of the Michigan Football Legends initiative.
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford wore No. 48 when he was a center and a linebacker from 1932 to 1934, and helped the Wolverines win Big Ten and national championships in 1932 and 1933.
Ford was a three-year letterman in football and was named Michigan’s most valuable player in 1934, starting all eight games.
“It’s quite an honor and a privilege, not only to represent a former Michigan player,” Morgan said. “He was a standout player and person, but on top of that, the president of the United States. I’m going to wear it proudly.”
ONE AWAY: Clay graduate Jordan Kovacs finished with two tackles against Illinois and needs one more to become the 15th player in Michigan history with 300 tackles.
THINK PINK: In addition to the Michigan coaching staff wearing “ChuckStrong” shirts to Saturday’s game in honor of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, the Wolverines wore pink gloves and wristbands during the game in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Michigan’s coaching staff wore hats with pink trim and wore pink bracelets that read “Beat Breast Cancer.”
KARRAS FAMILY BUSINESS: Ted Karras, a redshirt freshman who started at right guard for the Illini, is the great-nephew of former Detroit Lions defensive lineman Alex Karras, who died Wednesday.
Ted Karras is the seventh member of his family to play football in the Big Ten, joining his great uncles Alex and Paul Karras, who played at Iowa; grandfather Ted Karras, who played at Indiana; father Ted Karras, Jr., and uncle Tony Karras, who played at Northwestern; and great-uncle Lou Karras, who played at Purdue.
NOT A HAPPY HOMECOMING: The Illini dropped their fourth loss in a row under former Toledo coach Tim Beckman, who is in his first year at Illinois. The Illini also had two Toledo connections: defensive end Tim Kynard, a St. John’s Jesuit graduate, and wide receiver Chris Boles, a Central Catholic graduate. Boles was not listed on the Illini’s travel roster.