ANN ARBOR — What should have been a two-man rushing attack for Michigan has become a one-man show due to an injury. No problem. Blake Corum did the work of two running backs.
The junior has been given more responsibility in recent weeks and has, well, ridden it. It culminated in a career performance Saturday against Maryland in which Corum rushed for 243 yards for 30 carries, both personal bests.
“The vision, the low center of gravity… and the real key to his success is how close he can get to a defender and then just miss them,” said Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“He sees the holes that a lot of people don’t see,” said Safety Rod Moore.
“It’s very special to be able to block for him,” added lineman Zak Zinter.
Corum draws everyone’s attention – from defenders, his coaches and team-mates and everyone who’s seen him play this season. He’s a big reason Michigan is 4-0 and has scored more points than any other 130 FBS team.
Here’s a closer look at his amazing stats.
Outrun the competition
Corum has averaged 119.5 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the country. Corum has overtaken 25 teams — 19 percent of FBS programs. He wasn’t needed in the second half of Michigan’s nonconference games, and Michigan was content to give carries to Donovan Edwards, CJ Stokes and others.
But Edwards sat out the Maryland game with injury and Stokes fumbled with his only carry, forcing the coaching staff to lean on Corum. He delivered a career performance.
Corum has all the attributes of a great back and can be counted on to take a first down or break a long one. His eight rushes of at least 20 yards rank among the fist in the country, according to Pro Football Focus.
Find end zone
His nine rushing touchdowns stand alone as the most in the country. While the Michigan competition is set to improve, Corum is at a record-breaking pace. Hassan Haskins set Michigan’s single-season record with 20 touchdowns last year. Haskins had the 14-game advantage as Michigan played in the Big Ten championship and one bowl game. Corum will get 13 with hopes of playing 14 or 15.
But here, too, he has to assert himself against the Big Ten competition. Saturday’s opponent, Iowa, hasn’t conceded a rushing touchdown all season. Rutgers has the second-best rush defense in the country, and Illinois and Penn State’s are in the top 25. Corum had five touchdowns against Connecticut on Sept. 17.
Big game in the opening game of the Big Ten
Despite Michigan’s dominance at all stages of the game over three weeks, no Wolverine had received an individual award from the Big Ten. That changed on Monday when Corum was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week for his aforementioned performance against Maryland.
His two touchdown streaks were long (33 and 47 yards) and came from critical spots. What should have been just brief wins against a stacked box turned into game-changing touchdowns. His 243 rushing yards were the highest for a Michigan running back since Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s 313 against Ohio State in 1995 and the highest for a Wolverine since quarterback Denard Robinson’s 258 against Notre Dame in 2010.
As a result of his hot start, Corum’s Heisman chances have skyrocketed. He started the season at 100/1 but is currently at 40/1 on some books.
It is worth noting that Corum had a great start to last season before his performance faltered in conference play partly due to injury. Edwards’ forthcoming return will also affect Corum’s carries.
But the 5-foot-8, 210-pound Corum will feature heavily all season. He’s worked hard, especially in the weight room, to become the player he is. But he also has an innate talent, Harbaugh said.
“I think the really good running backs, the great running backs, a running back like Blake who has that kind of[skill]— I think they creep out of the cradle with that.”