Michigan somehow found a way to do it and stay undefeated.
The third-place Wolverines fought for their lives in the college football playoffs Saturday at home against Illinois. And so on until the last seconds.
After trailing 17-10 at the end of the third quarter, Michigan bounced back with star runner Blake Corum on the touchline to score a heartbreaking 19-17 victory in a monstrous showdown with No. 2 Ohio State the following weekend. Columbus.
The difference was Jake Moody’s four field goals in the second half.
Moody hit from 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 could have been a giant disappointment for Fighting Illini.
Michigan took the lead in the third quarter, but without Corum, the offense stalled. Corum, a Heisman Trophy contender, scored his eighth straight 100-yard game on his first-half performance alone. But Corum went down with an apparent knee injury late in the first half, groping for Illinois territory along the way.
Michigan took a 7–3 lead at halftime and Corum briefly returned to Michigan’s first offensive streak in the third quarter, but saw no further rushes after that.
In that third quarter, Michigan added a field goal to make it 10-3, but there wasn’t much attacking rhythm in the process. Not only Corum was eliminated, but second player Donovan Edwards, as well as several other key offensive players in Michigan. At this point, it became abundantly clear that the Michigan offense was up against a strong Illinois defense.
And on the other sideline was another running star, Chase Brown of Illinois. Brown started the weekend as the best driver in the country and was finally released. He hit an 8-yard touchdown midway through the third to tie the game at 10-10. And then after Michigan flipped him on downs, Brown rushed for a 37-yard touchdown to give Illinois a 17-10 lead with 1:36 left in third.
Things looked terrible for the Wolverines, but they were able to break away. JJ McCarthy, Michigan’s year 1 starting quarterback, missed a few open wide receivers, but he did just enough for Moody to pull the lead from Illinois and ultimately win the game.
McCarthy was just 18 of 34 for 208 yards, while CJ Stokes and Isaiah Gash combined just 22 yards for 12 carries in the second half. Michigan’s three fourth-quarter field goals scored for 15, 54, and 35 yards.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.
With that win, Michigan is now 11-0 on the season with a trip to No. 2 Ohio State next weekend. And if the Buckeyes take care of business on the road against Maryland, they’ll also be 11-0. The East Big Ten title will be on the line, and there is a chance that the loser could be eliminated from the college football playoffs.