Illinois notebook: Cumberland makes up for penalty

John Supinie

Called for holding on the previous play, Illinois wide receiver Jeff Cumberland covered up his blunder with a 77-yard touchdown reception on the following play early in the third quarter in the 45-20 victory at Michigan on Saturday.

"It was a penalty because they called it,'' Cumberland said. "I don't think it was holding. I drove the guy 10 yards off the ball. I knew I had to go out there and make a play for my team. I had to come back from the ball. When I caught it, I just turned it on after that.''

A starter before a stress fracture in his foot during Camp Rantoul sidelined him for nearly a month and kept him out of the season's first two games, Cumberland may still become the second receiving option behind star Arrelious Benn, whose 122 yards receiving gave him more than 100 for the second straight game. The TD catch was Cumberland's first reception of the year and his only catch against the Wolverines.

Cumberland's size (6-foot-5, 251 pounds) and speed make him a threat that's been surprisingly quiet this season. While others have shown flashes (see Will Judson, Chris Duvalt), Cumberland's return from injury could finally be complete.

"I think you're going to see more and more things from him,'' said Illini coach Ron Zook. "(Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley) and I talked a little bit about that (Friday) night. The more weapons you have, the harder it is to defend it.

"When you're out of football like Jeff for (more than) three weeks, you want him to come right back, but that's not usually how it is. It's going to be a big boost for him.''

The day wasn't perfect for Cumberland, who was called for a blocking in the back penalty that nullified a touchdown reception by Benn.

"I told Jeff he owes me one,'' Benn said. "That's OK. We've still got seven games left.''

SPEED: Illinois running back Daniel Dufrene showed a gear that perhaps only teammates knew he had, when he caught a swing pass and raced 57 yards for a touchdown. He blew past three Wolverines defenders who had angle on him.

"People (on the team) knew it, but I hadn't really shown it,'' Dufene said. "I knew I had to try to outrun everybody.''

Quarterback Juice Williams hit Dufrene in stride.

"Daniel used his home-run speed that we've talked about him having,'' Locksley said. "Rarely does a back get the ability to open it up and get it in fourth gear, because of the stops and starts with the nature of playing running back. Daniel caught it in stride, stuck his foot and was able to accelerate.''

HOMECOMING DATE: Illinois served as Michigan's homecoming opponent for the 14th time, trailing only Minnesota as the Wolverines' favorite homecoming date. It was something that Illinois didn't appreciate.

"For them to put us as their homecoming game, that was a slap in our face,'' Benn said. "We used that as extra motivation to come out and play even harder.''

ETC.: For a native of Columbus, Ohio, the victory at Michigan Stadium was especially enjoyable to Cumberland. "They have some really arrogant fans,'' he said. … Cumberland's 77-yard reception was the longest Illinois pass play since Jack Trudeau connected with Cap Boso for an 83-yarder in 1985. … Defensive end Derek Walker blocked a 52-yard field-goal attempt on Michigan's first possession.

John Supinie can be reached at