Rapid Reaction: Michigan fends off Illinois to set up showdown next Saturday in Columbus
The only way it could have gone worse for Michigan on Saturday is if the Wolverines had lost at home to Illinois.
Jake Moody’s 4th field goal of the game lifted the Wolverines to a 19-17 victory, but they have a lot of worries heading into their showdown next Saturday at Ohio State.
Michigan survived, despite an injury scare to Heisman candidate Blake Corum and another halftime tunnel issue, to set up its showdown with the Buckeyes next weekend.
Trailing for the first time entering the fourth quarter this season, the Wolverines (11-0, 8-0 B1G East) battled to a victory over Illinois (7-4, 4-4) at the Big House in Ann Arbor, getting an 8th straight 100-yard rushing game from Corum before he left the game for good early in the second half.
Corum went to the locker room, limping slightly, late in the first half after taking a hit to his knee on a key red zone play. He returned to make 1 carry, then stood on the sideline watching backups CJ Stokes and Isaiah Gash try to fill his shoes.
Close to 100,000 fans braved temperatures in the 20s ( and a “feels like” of 11 degrees with wind gusting to 30 mph at kickoff) to celebrate Michigan getting to 11-0 for the first time since 2006.
— Larry Lumps (@larrylumps4) November 19, 2022
The celebration was subdued because of worries over Corum, even though he did return for the 1 carry in the second half. With backup Donovan Edwards not available, Michigan used freshman Stokes and junior Gash in the backfield.
The Wolverines appeared on their way to taking care of business in their typical way, using heavy doses of Corum running behind a powerful offense line and a suffocating defense to grind out a victory.
But Illinois, which plays a similar style on both sides of the ball, had star running back Chase Brown available after he suffered a right ankle injury the previous week in a crushing B1G West loss to Purdue. Michigan held Brown, the nation’s leader in rushing yards entering the contest, in check early. But Brown gained momentum as the game wore on, and he topped 100 yards for the 10th time this season. After his touchdown gave Illinois a 17-10 lead, he was at over 130 rushing yards, with 2 TDs.
Meanwhile, Michigan was trying to rally without Corum, and wound up with a 4th-and-4 on the Illinois 23-yard line with 4:37 remaining in the game. McCarthy had kept the drive going by calmly recovering a fumbled snap and completing a pass for a first down. McCarthy hit Roman Wilson to pick up the first down, moving the Wolverines to the 14-yard line. But on the next set of downs, Gash dropped a pass and McCarthy missed an open Colston Loveland, a freshman tight end.
Michigan settled for a 3rd field goal by Jake Moody, and trailed 17-16 with 3:14 remaining.
Corum posted his 8th straight 100-yard game and climbed to 10th place on Michigan’s single-season rushing yards list, right behind his position coach, Mike Hart (1,455 in 2004). The 5-8, 210-pound junior broke free for 37 yards on the game’s first play and scored his 18th rushing touchdown of the season 6 plays later. He later added a 25-yard jaunt and was on pace for a monster game until getting hit on the left knee near the right sideline.
Corum fumbled on the play, ending a red zone chance for Michigan, and the game went to halftime minutes later with the home team holding a tenuous 7-3 lead.
Michigan is going to need Corum at close to 100 percent next week, because he provides the bulk of the offense week after week, especially in challenging weather conditions.
At the point Michigan took a 10-3 lead in the third quarter on a Moody field goal, Corum had 147 of the team’s 245 yards from scrimmage, including 39 yards on 2 receptions.
Thanks to his efforts, the Wolverines held serve with the Buckeyes, whose game at Maryland was kicking off as Michigan was closing out its victory. Next Saturday at noon ET in Columbus, the Wolverines will try to beat their archrival for a 2nd year in a row — for the first time since 1999-2000 — and clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game and a return trip to the College Football Playoff.
Michigan will enter that contest beaten up and perhaps with its confidence shaken. But a victory will get the Wolverines into the B1G title game and keep them on course for a CFP berth.
Illinois, a couple weeks removed from leading the B1G West and boasting the nation’s top scoring and total defense, lost its 3rd straight game. After UM’s first drive, 2nd-year coach Bet Bielema’s Illini matched up evenly with Wolverines. And Brown, obviously, looked like the healthier star running back by the final whistle.
After Michigan’s opening score, Illinois defense bowed up, forcing 3 punts, a turnover and a field goal try. Then the Tommy DeVito-led offense marched 67 yards to tie the game 10-10. DeVito at that point was an efficient 14-of-20 for 108 yards.
For Michigan, McCarthy made some strong throws but again mostly played the role of game-manager, throwing a lot of screens and other short throws. When Andrel Anthony failed to reel in a deep ball that hit his hands, McCarthy was 9-of-18 for 132 yards late in the third quarter.
In a game that featured the top 2 defenses in the country, it’s no surprise that the game became a low-scoring dogfight.
What was probably surprising, at least for maize and blue-clad fans packing Michigan Stadium, was that Illinois’ offense got rolling in the second quarter after producing just 22 yards in the first 15 minutes. Michigan escaped ceding only 3 points thanks to a dropped pass, a 4th-down stop of Brown and an Illini false start on a 4th down in the red zone. After the penalty, Illinois settled for a 29-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin.
Up next for Michigan
The Wolverines travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State in The Game for all the Big Ten marbles. The kickoff is slated for noon ET on Saturday (FOX).
Up next for Illinois
The Illini head to Northwestern on Saturday to close out the regular season against the B1G West’s worst team.