Heading into the 2021 season, there was no surprise what the pecking order of Michigan’s rushing attack would be. Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum would be 1A and 1B, “Thunder and Lightning”. True freshman Donovan Edwards would be a valuable piece to the puzzle behind the two lead backs.
“Hassan and Blake, they’re kind of like running back one and one. We’re sitting here today, those three are up there right to where it would be a three-back type of rotation. Leaning on Hassan and Blake the most,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said in July. “Donovan’s got the ability to hit the big ones. So does Blake and Hassan. Got a vision of it being extremely good.”
Extremely good it was, Haskins and Corum found their stride early on in the season, the rotation worked. The offensive line was the best its been during the Harbaugh era, Michigan’s offense was powered by the run.
Through Michigan’s first seven games they had one of the best backfields in all of college football — Corum had 729 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, Haskins had 602 rushing yards and 10 scores. Michigan was 7-0 to start the year. Through those first seven games Corum rushed for over 100 yards on four occassions, Haskins on three. The most successful performance they both had during this stretch came against Washington, where Corum rushed for 171 yards and 3 TDs, and Haskins had 155 yards and a TD. Cade McNamara only threw for 44 yards in this 31-10 win, the Huskies couldn’t stop the run.
The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Washington Huskies to advance their record to 2-0. Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins both rushed for 150 + yards.— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) September 12, 2021
Watch the highlights. @UMichFootball pic.twitter.com/PHd518FWei
The duo of Thunder and Lightning took a hiatus after Corum was injured against Indiana in Michigan’s ninth game of the year. This meant Haskins would have to carry the load against Penn State on the road, a misty day in Happy Valley that showcased all the physicality associated with a big time Big Ten matchup. Haskins’ gutsy peformance, 31 carries for 156 yards, consistently kept the chains moving for Michigan and greatly aided them in their 21-17 win.
Donovan Edwards had his time to shine in 2021, too — it came against Maryland, a game where he hauled in 10 catches for 170 yards and 1 touchdown — the 170 receiving yards are the most by a Michigan running back in program history. “I’ll make this statement, and I don’t like to make a lot of big, hyperbolic statements or whatever — It was a record, it was a great performance, all-time record. But, as I told you earlier, this will be a blip on the radar of the career of Donovan Edwards,” Harbaugh said after the Maryland game. “He’s destined for great things.”
Corum would made it back for the Ohio State game, but he still wasn’t 100%. Although Corum did contribute greatly during his time on the field to the tune of 6 carries for 87 yards, this was a performance of historic proportions from Haskins.
Haskins rushed for 169 yards and five touchdowns — the most rushing touchdowns in the history of the rivalry, the five touchdowns tied Michigan’s single-game record. “They thought they saw a ghost but it was number 25, Hassan Haskins,” Harbaugh said. “He has great determination, great purpose. Creatability.”
Corum and Haskins would both chip in a week later as Michigan dominated Iowa to win the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis — Haskins had 56 yards and 2 touchdowns, Corum had 74 yards and a score.
The rushing attack, the Michigan team would ultimately be thwarted by the now National Champion Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff, but nothing will ever change what Corum and Haskins were able to accomplish in 2021. Haskins will be turning pro, Corum is now the veteran in the room, and Edwards will get a bigger piece of the pie in 2022. Michigan’s rushing attack is still strong, it’ll just be Edwards providing the thunder next season instead of Haskins — Corum still will bring the lightning.
- Haskins: 1,327 rushing yards with 20 TDs, 18 receptions for 131 yards
- Corum: 952 rushing yards with 11 TDs, 24 receptions for 141 yards and 1 TD
- Edwards: 174 rushing yards with 3 TDs, 20 receptions for 265 yards and 1 TD