Good things tended to come in pairs for Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards; two 60+ yard runs to pull away from Penn State; two 75+ yard runs to blow out the Buckeyes. It isn’t a stretch to say Michigan had the best running game in America, and the best the Wolverines have had in most living memories.
As we look back upon how dominant Corum and Edwards were in 2022, it’s hard to imagine questions existed among some about Michigan’s ability to replace the physicality and toughness of Hassan Haskins.
“What will become of lightning without thunder?”
The first glimpses of an answer were shown in Corum’s five-touchdown outing against UConn. But it was the first few Big Ten games that he officially put the entire country on notice.
Ending his day against Maryland with 243 yards, two touchdowns and a mammoth 8.1 yards per carry, Corum emerged as the preeminent running back in the conference. Against Iowa, he continued to impress with a 133-yard performance that featured the same quickness that earned him the nickname “lightning” in 2021, with an added dimension of physicality elevating his game to another level.
Edwards also contributed against Iowa with a clutch third down touchdown grab to put Michigan firmly in control.
Things were looking great for the Wolverines running backs until a close encounter with tragedy occurred. In the game against Indiana, running backs coach Mike Hart collapsed on the sideline. Left without their coach and mentor, Michigan’s running backs had to make due against a Hoosiers team hellbent on stopping the run. By no means was this the best showing of the season, but what truly mattered was Hart was on the fast track to recovery.
Heart eventually returned to the sidelines a week later against Penn State at the Big House. Hart certainly had his hands full, as the Nittany Lions entered the top-10 bout as one of the nation’s best rush defenses.
That accolade wouldn’t last too long. The Wolverines ran Penn State out of the Big House, rushing for an incredible 418 yards. Concerns about Michigan’s ability to replace Haskins evaporated. Corum was his usual superhuman self, running for 166 yards and two touchdowns. However, what made the entire nation stop and stare was Edwards. Rushing for nearly 11 yards per tote on 16 carries, he burst onto the scene and proved the Michigan rushing attack was better than the version that preceded it. Michigan had two “lightnings.”
At times in Michigan’s steamrolling of Michigan State, Rutgers and Nebraska, it seemed like the running backs were Michigan’s offense. Against Michigan State and Nebraska, Corum had more rushing yards than Michigan had passing yards. And against Rutgers, Edwards was Michigan’s leading receiver. Once again, it appeared nothing could stop them.
Then disaster struck in the waning seconds of the first half against Illinois. Corum, the indefatigable heartbeat of the Michigan Wolverines, writhed in pain on the sideline after taking a blow to his knee. Michigan’s chances of winning its first game in Columbus in more than 20 years seemingly went up in smoke. Making matters worse, Edwards nursed a hand injury that left him unable to play.
With Corum unlikely to make such a quick recovery and the uncertainty surrounding Edwards’ hand injury, the running back room — and Michigan’s season — looked to be in jeopardy.
Unable to do anything on the ground in the first half against Ohio State, things were bleak. Michigan’s passing attack was keeping pace with the Buckeyes but if the Wolverines wanted to finish the game victoriously, they needed some help from their running game.
Slowly but surely in the third quarter, Edwards found his footing, aiding J.J. McCarthy to orchestrate a grinding eight-minute, 81-yard drive to put Michigan up 31-20. What would happen next catapulted Edwards into the annals of Michigan lore.
A 75-yard lightning bolt of a run silenced Ohio Stadium. Edwards then peeled off another seismic run for a touchdown, this one for 85 yards. Legendary doesn’t come close to describing how monumental those runs were. Michigan was returning to Indianapolis to defend its Big Ten crown — thanks in large part to the dynamic duo of Corum and Edwards.
In Indy, Edwards had another monster game by racking up 185 yards, averaging 7.4 yards a carry, and a touchdown. He helped Michigan get past a pesky Purdue team and secure its second consecutive Big Ten title.
Sans the inexcusable goal line fumble, the running backs played relatively well in the loss to TCU. Edwards nearly had 120 yards, and there were plenty of other miscues that cost Michigan a chance at a national title.
But given how phenomenal the season was for Michigan’s running backs, it’s imperative not to end this recap on a sour note. Corum and Edwards each had great seasons. Corum earned unanimous All-American and All-Big Ten honors, and the Wolverines nearly had both finish with over 1,000 yards rushing.
Incontrovertibly, they were the heart and soul of Michigan’s smash fest identity: the foundation of the program-record 13-win season.
And they will be back for another crack at the national title. Michigan fans should count their blessings; if a historic 2022 was just the appetizer, one could only imagine how sensational the main course will be.