EVANSTON, Ill. – Leon Hall returned a fumble recovery 83 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and No. 25 Michigan won its third straight, shutting out No. 21 Northwestern in the second half on its way to a 33-17 victory.

The 17 points were a season-low for the Wildcats (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), whose three-game win streak ended. Michigan (6-3, 4-2) held an offense that was fourth in the nation, averaging 529.3 yards, to 415 yards and intercepted Brett Basanez twice.

Hall’s return increased Michigan’s lead to 14-0 about six minutes into the first quarter.

Michigan’s Jerome Jackson ran for 105 yards on 24 attempts. And Kevin Grady, starting for Mike Hart, carried 20 times for 64 yards and a touchdown. Hart, fifth in the Big Ten at 113 yards per game, was in uniform but did not play after leaving last week’s game against Iowa with a sprained ankle.

Chad Henne completed 17-of-30 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, but threw three interceptions for the Wolverines.

Basanez, who had just one interception the first seven games, was 26-of-49 for 326 yards. Mark Philmore caught nine for a career-high 139 yards – six for 137 in the first half – but Northwestern never established the running game.

A team that was third in the Big Ten at 213.9 yards rushing had just 57 at halftime and 89 overall. Wildcats freshman Tyrell Sutton, second in the conference at 138.6 yards per game, carried 10 times for 50 – giving him 1,020 this season.

After beating Penn State by two on a touchdown at the end of regulation and squeezing out a 23-20 overtime victory at Iowa last week, this was a relative breather for the Wolverines.

Michigan scored 10 points in a two-minute span late in the second quarter to increase its lead to 27-10.

First, Henne hit Mike Massey for a 10-yard touchdown, capping a 71-yard drive.

Then, a lunging Grant Mason intercepted Basanez along the sideline at the Northwestern 28. That led to a 19-yard field goal by Garrett Rivas with 58 seconds left in the half.

Basanez connected with a leaping Philmore for a 35-yard score that cut it to 27-17 with 11 seconds left.

Michigan drove 74 yards on the game’s first possession, with Grady running it in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.

Northwestern seemed poised to answer on the ensuing drive, going from its own 35 to the 13 on just four plays. But Hall jarred the ball from Sutton, picked it up at the 17 and ran it back for the Wolverines’ second touchdown.

Northwestern immediately answered, with Basanez hitting Philmore for a 62-yard touchdown that made it 14-7.

Basanez completed his first six passes for 149 yards before Brandon Harrison’s interception near midfield. Harrison returned it to the 17 but fumbled the ball away.

Just when it seemed another wild, back-and-forth Northwestern game would unfold, the Wildcats’ momentum slowed down. They punted after recovering Harrison’s fumble.

After allowing 773 yards in a 52-21 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 17, and losing 34-29 to Penn State on a last-minute touchdown the following week, Northwestern vaulted into contention for the conference championship by beating Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State. After last week’s 49-14 rout, the Wolverines entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2001.

But after moving the ball early on against Michigan, the Wildcats stalled.

AP-ES-10-29-05 2300EDT


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