College football and college basketball writer
Ann Arbor, Mich. – It’s been sixteen years since both Michigan and Ohio State entered their postseason matchup with unblemished records, and Monday’s scene at the Towsley Family Museum in Schembechler Hall captured the ‘expectation. There were so many reporters and TV stations attending head coach Jim Harbaugh’s weekly news conference that a portable elevator was set up to overwhelm the cameras.
But anyone looking for new information on the health of linebacker Donovan Edwards (undisclosed injury), tight end Luke Schoonmaker (undisclosed injury) or linebacker Blake Corum (knee), the Heisman Trophy candidate who left the win Saturday’s tight end over Illinois, he stayed. unfulfilled Asked if he could shed some light on any of Michigan’s injured stars, Harbaugh had nothing to share.
“No,” Harbaugh said. “No update”.
No. 3 Michigan survives scare against Illinois
RJ Young wonders if the Wolverines are a playoff-caliber team and if running back Blake Corum will miss significant time.
The biggest cloud of concern hangs over Corum, the unquestioned focal point of this year’s offense, with 245 carries for 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns, all of which are in the top seven nationally. On Saturday against Illinois, Corum absorbed a low, open-field tackle in the second quarter and immediately clutched his left knee in pain. The hit by defensive end Xavier Scott appeared to force Corum’s knee into hyperextension, sending a crowd of 110,433 at Michigan Stadium into shock. After several minutes on the turf, Corum limped to the locker room under his own power. He made a brief comeback in the third quarter before retiring for the rest of the afternoon with 18 carries for 108 yards and a score.
In his postgame press conference, Harbaugh told reporters that the medical staff cleared Corum to return because the knee was deemed “structurally sound” during halftime evaluations. Corum’s status for Saturday’s undefeated matchup against Ohio State (noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) is unclear, and similar questions surround Edwards, who is sit out for the win against Illinois. The health of both players is a cause for serious concern in such an intense offense.
“Obviously he has an impact,” left tackle Ryan Hayes said of playing without Corum for the second half of Saturday’s game. “He’s probably one of the best, if not the best, players in the country. Losing Blake is a big deal for us. But I think we had a lot of guys come together. We ended up finding a way to win. Which is great for to us”.
Michigan’s 10-3 lead against the Illini evaporated in the third quarter after Corum left the game for good. A pair of touchdowns by Illinois tailback Chase Brown pushed the visitors ahead, 17-10, and the Illini held that lead into the fourth quarter. The Wolverines needed a trio of field goals from All-American kicker Jake Moody to preserve their undefeated season, with the last of them going through the uprights with nine seconds left.
While Michigan deserves credit for putting together three scoring drives in 12 minutes without its top weapon, questions remain about what the offense will look like if Corum is unavailable or far less than 100 percent healthy against the Buckeyes. Only three Power 5 teams have more rushing attempts than the Wolverines’ 487 this season: Ole Miss with 532, and Arkansas and Minnesota with 511 each. And only seven Power 5 teams have thrown fewer passes than Michigan’s 293 attempts: Syracuse (292), Iowa (286), Auburn (285), Oregon State (283), Kansas (282), Wisconsin (267 ) and Minnesota. (236).
“I don’t think we’re going to change our identity this game just because Blake (may not be available),” Hayes said. “Obviously, Blake is a big part of our offense, a big part of our team. But I think our identity is still the same.”
How effectively Harbaugh’s team can maintain that identity will likely depend on Edwards, a former five-star recruit plagued by injuries the past two seasons. Edwards sat out Michigan’s win over Nebraska on Nov. 12 and did not see the field against the Illini last week. He also missed games against UConn and Maryland in September while playing only small portions in additional wins over Hawaii and Iowa. His snap count of 177 pales in comparison to Corum’s 448 total.
When healthy, Edwards has shown the kind of explosiveness and versatility that few on the roster can match. His average of 6.7 yards per carry is tied for 12th nationally among halfbacks with at least 70 carries, and Edwards is still fifth on the team in receiving with 14 catches for 179 yards and two scores. But he’s never carried the ball more than 16 times in a game with Michigan. Corum averages 26.4 carries per game against Big Ten opponents, and the Wolverines average 44.3 rushing plays as a team each week.
“I think everybody else will just step up (if Corum can’t play),” Hayes said. “I think we’re up to the challenge and we’re going to do it.”
Donovan Edwards goes 67 yards to the house!
Donovan Edwards has dealt with health issues this season, but he’s also had some big moments, like that 67-yard TD against Penn State on Oct. 15.
The validity of that statement will be truly tested if Corum and Edwards are unable to play against Ohio State. True freshman CJ Stokes (53 carries, 268 yards, 1 TD) is the only other scholarship recruit with more than nine rushing attempts this season, and running backs coach Mike Hart preferred the pass to Isaiah Gash to former three-star recruit Tavierre Dunlap as Michigan came back to defeat Illinois.
Gash is the son of former All-Pro defensive end and Super Bowl champion Sam Gash, who later coached the New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. A junior at Bayport High School in the Green Bay suburb of Suamico, Wis., Gash has drawn praise from Harbaugh for his aggression as a backup kick returner and his toughness as an amateur boxer. He has carried 19 times for 101 yards and two scores this season.
The biggest play of Gash’s career was an 8-yard reception on fourth-and-3 during Saturday’s win over Illinois. His catch extended the drive that ended with Moody’s game-winning field goal.
That’s the kind of production Michigan could need from him this week.
“Be thankful for the opportunity to play this kind of big game,” Harbaugh said of his message to the team this week. “It’s where we are right now. It’s a real honor. It’s a real honor to be in this position to be able to test you physically, mentally, emotionally. We know it’s our toughest test of the year. And I think we’ll find that we are made of the right stuff.”
Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.
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