Throughout the season, the Nov. 26 game between Michigan and Ohio State has been considered one of the biggest in recent history of the game. And there was only one game left before the trip to Columbus.
The only roadblock was an upset Illinois team. And deep into the third quarter, the Wolverines’ offense looked anemic and their defense was faltering — for the second time this season, they lost in the second half.
In the end, though, Michigan (11-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) prevailed over Illinois (7-4, 4-4) 19-17 — setting up a huge showdown next weekend in Columbus.
After their first drive — a clinical 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive — the Wolverines looked sleepy for most of the first half. Their defense has mostly held while their offense has struggled to find any type of rhythm. It was only emphasized in the last minutes of the first half.
With Michigan’s offense in the red zone late in the first half, junior running back and Heisman hopeful Blake Corum suffered an undisclosed leg injury. On top of that, he also threw the ball to hold his knee just before he went down and was immediately picked off by an Illini defender.
An injury to their best player and the loss killed any chance of the Wolverines going into the half with any momentum. The Big House was a place of mourning for the final minutes of the half.
But Corum came up on Michigan’s second offensive drive of the second half, and that turned into a standing ovation. While it may not be as serious an injury as many have worried, it’s still an example of what the Wolverines were worried about a week after their biggest game of the season.
That didn’t alleviate all of Michigan’s problems, though — Corum didn’t play much and still had a very real opponent trying to play spoiler.
The Wolverines’ offensive line wasn’t getting the push it had all season, their vaunted rushing defense was being bullied, and suddenly there was a very real possibility that Michigan wouldn’t enter Columbus undefeated.
When Illinois star running back Chase Brown ran into the endzone on a 37-yard run to give the Illini their first lead, the Big House was dead quiet.
It was like the Wolverines were trying to generate some energy, they needed it. In the fourth quarter, they finally did.
Michigan’s drives ended in field goals, but its defense stepped up when it needed to most. After struggling all game, sophomore quarterback JJ McCarthy did enough on the final drive to give graduate kicker Jake Moody the go-ahead win for the Wolverines to keep their undefeated season alive.
Just before the trip to Columbus.