Michigan somehow found a way to make it through and go undefeated.
The third-ranked Wolverines fought for their lives in the college football playoffs at home to Illinois on Saturday. And it went until the last few seconds.
After trailing 17-10 late in the third quarter, Michigan hit back with star running back Blake Corum on the sidelines and clinched a stunning 19-17 win to set off a monster showdown with No. 2 the next weekend the state of Ohio to host Columbus.
Jake Moody’s four field goals in the second half made the difference.
Moody made kicks for 46, 41, 33, and 35 yards, the last three of which came in the fourth quarter. Moody calmly connected from 35 to win the game with just nine seconds left in regulation to avoid what would have been a mammoth upset for the Fighting Illini.
Michigan led well into the third quarter, but without Corum, the offense faltered. A Heisman Trophy contender, Corum notched his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game on his first-half performance alone. But Corum went down late in the first half with an apparent knee injury, fumbling deep in Illinois in the process.
Michigan went 7-3 at halftime, and Corum returned briefly for Michigan’s first offensive series of the third quarter but never saw another snap after that.
On that third-quarter drive, Michigan added a field goal to make it 10-3, but there wasn’t much offensive rhythm in the process. And not only was Corum out, second defender Donovan Edwards was sidelined, as were several other key players on Michigan’s offense. By this point it was becoming pretty clear that Michigan’s offense was in for a big fight against a strong Illinois defense.
And on the other sideline was another star running back — Illinois’ Chase Brown. Brown went into the weekend as the nation’s leading rusher, finally loosening up. Midway through the third, he hit an 8-yard touchdown for a 10-10 level. And then after Michigan turned it around on downs, Brown broke away for a 37-yard touchdown, giving Illinois a 17-10 lead with 1:36 staying in third place.
Things looked dire for the Wolverines, but they managed to pull away. JJ McCarthy, Michigan’s first-year quarterback, missed a few open receivers, but he did enough to put Moody in position to break Illinois’ lead — and eventually win the game.
McCarthy was just 18 of 34 for 208 yards while CJ Stokes and Isaiah Gash combined for just 22 yards on 12 carries in the second half. Michigan’s three field goal drives in the fourth quarter spanned 15, 54, and 35 yards.
It wasn’t nice, but it was enough.