Michigan returned to action after a bye week and welcomed the surging Northwestern Wildcats to Ann Arbor. While having noticeably regressed from last season, Pat Fitzgerald-coached teams will never just lie down for an opponent.
The Wildcats came out physical on both sides of the ball and went with a pass-heavy attack with quarterback Ryan Hilinski early. Michigan endured a late first-half miscue, some red zone struggles, and pulled away via a relentless rushing attack of Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins.
Michigan played far from flawless, but still secured a 33-7 victory. Now, 7-0, all eyes are on the clash with the Michigan State Spartans next week in East Lansing.
But first, let’s hand out some game balls.
Offense - Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins
‘Shake and Blake’ and ‘H2OH’ have been the lifeblood of this Michigan offense. Both players combine speed, elusiveness, power and have been invaluable in pass protection all season.
Corum (19 carries, 119 yards, two touchdowns) and Haskins (21 carries, 100 yards, two touchdowns) are on pace to both rush for more than 1,000 yards this season. They would only be the second pair of Michigan running backs to accomplish this and the first since 1975 when Gordon Bell (1,390) and Rob Lytle (1,030) did so.
The balance of the two backs has kept them both healthy and the pair will be heavily relied upon to ease the burden on the quarterback position the final five games.
Michigan’s rushing attack has come a long way since going seven years (2011 - 2018) between 1,000-yard running backs.
Defense - DJ Turner
While invitations were not extended to Northwestern, the Wildcats were thoroughly welcomed to the DJ Turner coming out party.
Turner was targeted repeatedly as Michigan’s third corner, but rose to the challenge. The third-year super freshman — thanks to COVID extended eligibility — was able to run with receivers, get his head around consistently, and challenge every catch with disciplined hands.
Most impressively, Turner provided a highlight reel interception in which he broke up the pass, tipped it an additional two times and secured the interception in position for a short return.
Special Teams - Cornelius Johnson
While his day was limited on the offensive end (three catches, 30 yards/ one rush, six yards), Cornelius Johnson found a way to be a game-breaker on special teams.
With Michigan up 17-7, but the game very much still in the balance with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter, Johnson exploded off the left side of the line and laid out for a perfectly-timed punt block.
Three plays later, Haskins would find the end zone on a 13-yard run and put the Wolverines up 24-7.
This was the first blocked punt for the Wolverines since Nov. 2019 against Michigan State.