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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Angelique S. Chengelis

Another day on the job: Michigan handles Nebraska with ease, 34-3

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A win is a win even if it felt sluggish and mostly uninteresting.

Michigan, ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, has been described by the CFP chair as “workmanlike” and that seemed a tad negative but mostly accurate.

The Wolverines have plowed their way to a 10-0 record for the first time since 2006 and relied — again — on junior running back Blake Corum who carried the team to a 34-3 win over Nebraska during a brisk, snowy Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Michigan is 10-0 overall, 7-0 in the Big Ten, and Nebraska falls to 3-7, 2-5.

Michigan plays its final home game next week against Illinois before heading to Ohio State for the season finale.

Sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy ran for a touchdown and threw two scores, the first a 9-yarder to Ronnie Bell. On the second, Andrel Anthony fell on a fumble in the end zone after Bell took a pass from McCarthy and fumbled at the 1-yard line. Jake Moody added a 30-yard field goal. Michigan had 412 yards of offense.

Corum, who entered the game among the nation’s top-ranked backs, has been a workhorse for the run-first Wolverines and had 28 carries for 162 yards and one touchdown. He was ranked No. 1 in rushing touchdowns, now with 17, and total touchdowns (18). He also was ranked seventh in rushing yards averaging 131.9 yards.

During Big Ten play, he has averaged 28 carries, and had a 30-carry game against Maryland and 33 against Michigan State. Running backs coach Mike Hart, Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, believes Corum should be a strong Heisman Trophy candidate but knows that the wear and tear late in the season is a concern, especially with what could be a battle of unbeatens looming large in two weeks.

Donovan Edwards did not see the field after the first quarter, but it’s unclear why. Edwards missed two games this season with a leg injury. Corum finally was able to take a break in the fourth quarter, as C.J. Stokes, Isaiah Gash and Tavierre Dunlap got carries.

The Wolverines entered the game ranked fourth nationally in rushing, averaging 250 yards a game, and were able to pass that mark. This all came behind an offensive line that has been shuffled seemingly all season because of injuries. Michigan had its sixth starting offensive line with Gio El-Hadi starting for left guard Trevor Keegan, who missed the game with injury, and Karsen Barnhart was back in at right tackle for this fourth-straight start in place of Trente Jones, who was injured but back on the sideline in uniform.

This was a workmanlike game on both sides of the ball.

The Cornhuskers gained 146 yards of offense — 103 before halftime. Linebacker Junior Colston and freshman Mason Graham had sacks. Michigan shut down Nebraska in the second half and in the last five games has outscored opponents 117-3 in the second half. Only Penn State scored on a third-quarter field goal.

What’s lacking with Michigan’s offense is its deep passing game, something McCarthy knows. He has talked about it frequently, even this week, but it’s not quite there.

The Wolverines’ third possession of the game that opened the second quarter, McCarthy took deep shots to Anthony — he missed him by a couple inches at Rutgers last week — and Cornelius Johnson and missed on both. Johnson appeared to have a timing issue on his jump to grab the pass, but the ball was slightly over his head.

Getting the deep pass going is imperative for Michigan these finals weeks as the Wolverines prepare to play at Ohio State and its gaudy passing attack in two weeks. The biggest issue for McCarthy is getting more air on the deep throws and giving receivers a chance to adjust.

“Every single time, I’ll say it’s on me,” McCarthy said this week referring to the missed deep balls. “They’re getting open, I just have to put it on ‘em. I take 100 percent blame for all deep balls that are missed.”

Michigan faced an issue scoring touchdowns in the red zone a few weeks ago and has seemed to fix that. At Rutgers last week, the Wolverines converted touchdowns on six of seven attempts.

In the first half, Corum scored his 17th rushing touchdown of the season on a 2-yard score on first down, and scored on a 9-yard pass from McCarthy to build a 14-0 lead. McCarthy added a 3-yard run in the third quarter.

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