ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Michigan got off to a slow start, possibly preparing to play at Michigan State. Then the Wolverines used a solid finish to seal a clash of undefeated rivals.
Shortly after the victory, Jim Harbaugh’s thoughts had already turned to the ninth-ranked Spartans on the road.
“All the focus is there,” he said.
The Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) led the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3) by just three at halftime. They escaped by outscoring them 23-0 in the opening 16:40 of the second half.
“We played strong enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fizgerald. “And then we went back to bad habits.”
Corum finished with 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Haskins ran for 110 yards and two scores.
Corum shakes the defenders with sly moves as Haskins slams through them with power.
“We both bring different things to the table,” Corum said. “We feed off of each other.”
Michigan had 294 rushing yards, almost 50 yards above its average.
“They’re the best ground attack in the country for a reason,” Fitzgerald said.
Cade McNamara was 20 of 27 for 129 yards for the Wolverines, whose inability to throw the ball into the field could prove to be a problem against tougher teams.
Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hilinski, a transfer to South Carolina, completed 14 of 29 passes for 114 yards with an interception. He was replaced early in the fourth quarter by Carl Richardson, who was 2 for 3 for 9 yards.
Evan Hull hit a 75-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, making it 10-7 and nearly doubling the Wildcats’ yards in the game at that point.
Down 17-7 halfway through the third, Northwestern’s Charlie Kuhbander missed a 39-yard field goal.
“There are a lot of good things we can take from this game, and a lot of things we let them slip away,” said Hilinski.
Take it away
Northwest: The defense, which has improved steadily this season, mastered a powerful offense in the first half before exhausting as the Wildcats struggled to maintain their offensive practices.
Michigan: After a pass and before playing for the Spartans, a lackluster start was understandable even though Harbaugh and his players refused to acknowledge it.
Michigan won its first seven games for the first time since 2016, Harbaugh’s second season, when he started 9-0 and finished 10-3 with a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Wide receiver Cornelius Johnson blocked a punt in the third trimester.
“This is the first time he’s been placed in this position,” Harbaugh said.
The block set up Haskins’ 13-yard run that gave Michigan a 24-7 lead. Johnson also caught three passes for 30 yards, drew at least one flag for a first down and ran for 6 yards.
Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the Big Ten’s best mid-season defensive player, recovered a fumble early in the fourth after splitting a sack, deflecting a pass and getting credit for two rushed quarterbacks.
The Wildcats, a reigning division champion, have alternated between losing and winning every game during a tough season that Fitzgerald says will pay off in the future.
“We have a lot of young people who are gaining really valuable experience,” he said.
The Wolverines won the new George Jewett Trophy, in honor of the first black football player of the two schools.
“To play for this was an honor,” said Fitzgerald.
Jewett played for Michigan during the 1890 and 1892 seasons, then moved from Michigan to Northwestern in 1893 to complete medical school. He played two seasons for the Wildcats.
Michigan doesn’t have much room to progress, but will close out the regular season with plenty of chances against Michigan State, the No.7 Penn State and No.5 Ohio State.
Northwest: home to Minnesota.
Michigan: Plays at Spartan Stadium in a highly anticipated clash of undefeated rivals.
“We are excited,” McNamara said. “We are confident.”
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