Turnovers Bite Huskies at Michigan
No. 4 Michigan 33, Northern Illinois 17
Sept. 3, 2005
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan made Northern Illinois pay for its mistakes, using turnovers to turn a competitive game into a lopsided win.
Mike Hart ran for 117 yards and a scored two touchdowns, and the fourth-ranked Wolverines took advantage of five Northern Illinois giveaways to beat the Huskies 33-17 on Saturday.
A season after leading the nation by losing only one fumble, the Huskies lost four fumbles and threw an interception while the Wolverines turned it over only once.
"If you win the turnover battle, statistics say you win 79 percent of the time," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "If the turnovers were 1-1, the score would've been much different."
The Wolverines led just 14-10 early in the second quarter before scoring 19 straight points in the opener for both schools.
The Huskies ran for 211 yards and threw for 200, but they were doomed by the turnovers and a blocked field goal.
"I honestly thought we had a shot if we didn't turn it over," said coach Joe Novak, who has built Northern Illinois into a mid-major power after it lost 23 straight from 1996-98.
Michigan's Chad Henne was 20-of-31 for 227 yards and two TD passes. Jason Avant had nine receptions for 127 yards and a score. Hart had 27 carries and ran for more than 100 yards for the sixth time in his last eight games. He also caught four passes for 49 yards.
The Wolverines scored TDs on their first three drives, missed a field goal on their fourth and led 27-10 at halftime after converting 8 of 10 third downs.
"Offensively, we played as well in the first half as any team since I've been at Michigan," said Carr, in his 11th year as head coach.
Adrian Arrington, Michigan's promising No. 3 receiver, was carted off the field with ice packed on his right ankle after he returned a kickoff early in the second quarter. Carr said he's going to miss some time, but didn't elaborate.
Garrett Wolfe had 17 carries for 148 yards and a TD for the Huskies, but his fumble in the second quarter was the first of their turnovers.
"With my fumble, everything started to turn around," he said. "The game started to go downhill for us."
Phil Horvath was 17-of-25 for 200 yards with an interception and a fumble.
Northern Illinois had some success against the Wolverines' high-powered offense, but not when it counted most on third downs.
Michigan opened with a 14-play drive - converting four third downs - ending with Avant's leaping 4-yard catch in the corner of the end zone.
The Huskies responded with a 16-play possession, but they missed their first of many opportunities by stalling at the 7 and settling for a field goal.
On Hart's 34-yard TD reception, he caught a screen pass, ran over a linebacker outweighing him by 50 pounds and sprinted past the Huskies down the sideline.
"I knew Mike was fast, but he surprised me with his power when I saw him run that dude over," said former teammate Marlin Jackson, an Indianapolis Colts rookie.
Wolfe scored on a 76-yard run two plays later to make it 14-10 early in the second quarter.
Hart's 2-yard dive over a pile of linemen put the Wolverines ahead 20-10.
Wolfe ruined a strong drive with a fumble at Michigan's 13.
After the Wolverines' next drive, Shatone Powers fumbled on a punt return, giving them the ball at Northern Illinois 14. Kevin Grady's 1-yard dive put Michigan ahead 27-10 with 27 seconds left in the half.
"The fumble at the end of the first half - that 14-point swing - was a killer," Novak said.
The Huskies' misfortune continued in the second half as they had a field goal blocked on their first drive.
After stuffing Grady on a fourth-and-1, Jake Nordin's fumble gave Michigan the ball back. Horvath's high pass was intercepted by Leon Hall on the Huskies' next possession, and Horvath fumbled the next time they had the ball.
Garrett Rivas' two field goals early in the fourth quarter gave the Wolverines a 33-10 lead before A.J. Harris scored a late touchdown for Northern Illinois.
"I'm disappointed with how we played" Novak said.