What a performance it was for the Michigan Wolverines in maybe the most dominant performance of the Jim Harbaugh era. The Northern Illinois Huskies didn’t have much of a chance against Michigan. The Michigan defense overwhelmed the Huskies in all but two drives of the game with consistent pressure on the Nothern Illinois backfield.
On the offensive side of the ball, Michigan proved they could move the ball in the air with some nice throws from Cade McNamara in the game. The Michigan starter was 8-11 for 191 yards and a touchdown in the game.
The biggest story of the game, though, was the Wolverines’ rushing attack. Michigan finished with 374 rushing yards. They’ve rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season now in only 3 games. They were only a touchdown away from tying the school record for rushing touchdowns in a game as they finished with eight scores from four different players.
To start this one, the Wolverines wasted no time finding the endzone. Two runs of more than ten yards from Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, respectively, put the ball on the 1-yard line. Cade McNamara snuck it in on the goal line for the score. Michigan took an early lead, 7-0.
In response, the Huskies put together a drive of their own. A combination of outside runs and quick passes helped Rocky Lombardi and Northern Illinois move the ball down the field. Combine that with a few missed tackles, and a 9-play, 72-yard drive finished with a Huskies field goal putting the score at 7-3 midway through the first quarter. It was their best drive of the half and 72 of the 213 yards they had in the whole game. A field goal was a major win for the Michigan defense.
The ensuing Michigan drive began with a 25-yard A.J. Henning reverse to put the ball at midfield. All three Michigan runningbacks saw snaps on the drive including true freshman Donovan Edwards. But it was Blake Corum who capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
It was Corum’s 6th touchdown of the season in nine quarters of play. Michigan took a double-digit lead, 14-3 moving the ball consistently on the ground. They had 91 rushing yards through their first two drives.
To wrap up the first quarter, the Wolverines forced another three-and-out after a false start on the first play of the drive to put the Huskies behind the sticks. Northern Illinois was 0-7 on third-down attempts in the first half.
Michigan started their drive the same way they did the previous one, an end-around for A.J. Henning picked up 25-yards. Henning had 83 all-purpose yards in the first quarter on only 4 touches.
The first play of the second quarter was a 25-yard run from Corum, putting the Wolverines in the red zone. A pass to Cornelius Johnson put Michigan inside the five-yard line and Haskins leaped over the pile for another one-yard touchdown. The Wolverines were taking command of the game, 21-3 with almost 13 minutes still to play in the second quarter.
Once again, the Huskies shot themselves in the foot with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that put them at 2nd and 19. Once again, Michigan’s defense forced a punt on a three-and-out.
The Wolverines tried to air it out in the next series. McNamara just overthrew Cornelius Johnson which would have been a massive play. A few plays later, Michigan went deep again to Daylen Baldwin. Even though he dropped it, a pass interference gave Michigan the first down. A fumble on a first down snap from McNamara made it 2nd & 18. It was the Wolverines' first negative play in the game. However, they got it all back on one play with a 20-yard pass to Erick All up the seam. On 3rd & 3 from the 5-yard line, Haskins rumbled and tumbled into the endzone for his second score of the game. Four drives, four rushing touchdowns for Michigan to open this one up 28-3.
It took several timeouts and a few attempts at trying to draw the Michigan defense offsides, but Northern Illinois picked up their first 1st down in the second quarter with 4:34 remaining in the half. Still, it was only a 7-play, 11-yard drive that had the same result: a punt.
One play and 13-seconds later, Michigan scored again with an 87-yard touchdown pass from McNamara to Johnson.
The junior wideout continues to make his case to be the new No. 1 receiver at Michigan after the Ronnie Bell injury. They will need him to continue to step up like this once Big Ten play is underway. Michigan went into the half up 35-3.
The second half began with J.J. McCarthy at quarterback for McNamara. It was three plays, all runs for Michigan. Corum went 51-yards to the house down the left sideline for a score. He passed the century mark for the third consecutive game finishing with 138 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns.
Northern Illinois continued to do nothing on the offensive end. It was another three-and-out forced by the Michigan defense.
Speaking of things happening routinely in this game, Henning had another great punt return of 32-yards. Any question about who the return man should be for the remainder of the season was put to bed in today’s game. Every time he touches the ball and gets some open space it feels like he is going to score.
Next Michigan drive, Edwards joined McCarthy in the backfield. They showed off a beautiful read-option where McCarthy pulled the football for 16 yards and into the red zone. Corum came back into the game to punch the ball into the endzone. All seven of Michigan’s first seven drives resulted in touchdowns, three of them going to Corum. His play has caught the eye of one former Wolverine:
@blake_corum has been playing like a heisman candidate so far this year…— jbooty (@JakeButtTE) September 18, 2021
You’d think maybe things couldn’t get any worse for the Northern Illinois offense. You’d be wrong. Gemon Green picked off the first play of the next drive and took it to the three yard-line. It was the first interception of the season for Michigan’s secondary.
Two plays later, Edwards punched in his first touchdown in the maize and blue on a 4-yard run. With 6:40 remaining in the third quarter, Michigan led 56-3.
Michigan’s defense was hardly on the field again as they forced their 5th three-and-out of the game. Then, Michigan’s offense was barely on the field for a two-play, 76-yard drive thanks to a 58-yard touchdown run by Edwards. That’s three touchdowns on the last five snaps for the Michigan offense and their 9th consecutive drive ending with a touchdown, eight on the ground.
Another short drive from Northern Illinois and Michigan took over on their own 20 to end the third quarter. It was a massive third quarter for the Wolverines, racking up 216 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Huskies picked up 29 yards on 15 plays and threw the interception to boot.
True freshman Tavierre Dunlap got some run on to open up the fourth quarter with a 28-yard run. Cristian Dixon also got his first catch as a Wolverine for a couple of yards. But, Michigan was stopped on 4th down. With almost 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the bench emptied, it was the first Michigan drive of the game that didn’t end in a touchdown.
Weird moment: after a three-and-out from the Michigan defense, the punt return team had two players wearing No. 1. So, Northern Illinois kept the football. Lombardi ran for 45 yards on a read-option and then taunted the Michigan student section down 60, which was something... A few play later and Lombardi throws a touchdown pass to Cole Tucker making it 63-10.
Dan Vallari and Alan Bowman alternated at quarterback on the next drive. They milked the clock and continued to move the ball down the field. After the game, Jim Harbaugh said that over 100 rostered players got to play in the 63-10 win for Michigan.
Now, it’s time for Big Ten play to begin for the Wolverines as their focus turns to Rutgers coming to the Big house next weekend. The kickoff for that game is at 3:30 PM ET.