Michigan 63, Northern Illinois 10

Michigan 63, Northern Illinois 10

September 19, 2021
Blake Corum

This is the expectation. It’s nice to see that Michigan met expectations for once. This kind of beatdown is what Michigan should do on a pretty regular basis against overmatched MAC-level opponents. We’ve seen losses (2008 Toledo), close wins (2014 Akron), and other mild scares against the MAC, as well as a bunch of dominant victories. But Michigan should never really be within arm’s reach of a MAC opponent. The line should be too big, the skill guys should be too fast, and the coaches should be too smart.

Hit the jump for more.

Run, run, run. Michigan couldn’t stop running in this one, and I was okay with it. Why? Some people misconstrued by post last week to be saying Michigan should stop running and throw the ball. That’s not what I said at all. What I said is that Michigan needs to do better and be more efficient when they do throw, instead of the 7/15 for 44 yards they had last week. Granted, Northern Illinois isn’t anywhere near as good as Washington on defense, but 8/11 for 191 yards and 1 touchdown for starter Cade McNamara is more like it. Even backup J.J. McCarthy was 4/6 for 42 yards. Those 17 total attempts are only 2 more than last week, but the difference is that they were efficient and productive, instead of being primarily dump-offs and screens to tight ends and running backs. Whereas only 3 catches were made by receivers against Washington, the leading receiver in this one, Cornelius Johnson, had 3 receptions on his own.

Running back talk. I’ve taken a lot of heat over the years for my takes on running backs, but we all need to acknowledge that there’s just a different level of excitement when Blake Corum gets the ball in his hands and gets past the first level of defenders. Backs like Hassan Haskins are fine to good (9 carries, 56 yards, 2 TD), but backs like Corum (13 carries, 125 yards, 3 TD) can break things open in a hurry. And I mean no disrespect to Haskins, who continuously breaks tackles and gains big chunks of yards. I would take Haskins ahead of most of Michigan’s running backs over the past decade or so. Corum just has that extra gear that makes teams fear him, and that should open up the passing game. Freshman backup Donovan Edwards (8 carries, 86 yards, 2 TD) needs to become best friends with Corum and hit the weight room with him. Edwards has a lot of potential, breakaway speed, and good vision, but he just needs a little more lower body strength to step through a few more arm tackles.

What happened to NIU? My prediction on Friday was for a 38-20 Michigan win, and most of that was predicated on an impressive talent in running back Harrison Waylee. Waylee averaged 26.5 carries and 161.5 yards on the ground in his first two games. He left the game for a stretch from the mid-first quarter to the mid-second after leaving the game with a lower body injury, and he just didn’t seem to have much burst after that. He finished with just 12 carries for 34 yards (2.8 yards/carry). I also thought Michigan might have an emotional letdown after the Washington victory, but that appeared not to be the case. The combination of Michigan being locked in and NIU losing its best playmaker’s 100% burst led to a blowout. I do think Michigan would have scored more than 38 on the Huskies because the Wolverines were mauling NIU up front and outrunning them on the second and third levels, but I also think NIU could have scored more than 10.

Kolesar to Henning! I was pretty pleased to see that Michigan replaced walk-on Caden Kolesar as punt returner. Since replacing Ronnie Bell against Western Michigan, Kolesar had not handled punt returning duties very well. This game saw sophomore A.J. Henning take over that role, and he finished with 5 punt returns for 70 yards, including a 32-yarder. Henning also had 1 carry for 26 yards and 1 catch for 24 yards, meaning he was responsible for 124 total yards in this game on 7 touches. The coaching staff needs to continue finding ways to get him the ball.

Cornelius Johnson unleashed! Michigan took a few downfield shots to Johnson in this one. One should have been called pass interference, another was slightly overthrown, and the other was an 87-yard touchdown bomb. If Michigan is going to run the ball this effectively throughout the season, the over-the-top shots to Johnson – and others – should continue.

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