Big plays from offense, defense, special teams spur Michigan victory over Northwestern

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Three big plays stood out for Michigan in the win over Northwestern, one from each phase of the game.

There was a 19-yard move-the-pile run by Hassan Haskins, a punt block by receiver Cornelius Johnson and an interception by D.J. Turner that highlighted the Wolverines' 33-7 victory over Northwestern on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

The sixth-ranked Wolverines are 7-0, 4-0 Big Ten and travel to Spartan Stadium next Saturday to face No. 9 Michigan State, also 7-0, 4-0.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh credited special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh for drawing up the play on the punt block that set up a touchdown drive. Harbaugh said they felt like there was only one chance to execute the attempt at the block. It was the first time Johnson had been used in that role.

“You got one shot at it, and he comes through like he did,” Harbaugh said. “He ran the perfect course, perfect amount of steps, great vision on the ball and ball skills to get that punt blocked. Everybody did their job."

Michigan wide receiver Cornelius Johnson blocks a punt by Northwestern punter Derek Adams during the third quarter.

Harbaugh said the Wolverines had seen a tendency from Northwestern and wanted to take advantage.

“They were trying to roll away from the left side or directional punt back to the field (and) they just didn’t have enough blockers over there,” Harbaugh said. “It was well-schemed. Figured we’d only get one shot of overloading that side and getting a chance to block the punt, punting it back to the field from right to left. It worked out just as Jay had drawn it up.”

Turner got his first interception of the season early in the fourth quarter, picking off Ryan Hilinksi, whose pass bounced off the hands of receiver J.J. Jefferson, then off Turner’s left hand then his right before he pulled it in.

More: Wojo: Unbeaten Wolverines plow through another foe, but now it gets tough

“That’s was one of the best interceptions I’ve seen all season and in recent memory,” Harbaugh said.

Turner had three tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss on the Wildcats’ first series of the game. Turner said he was one tackle from making it a pick-six.

“I saw the end zone, and I thought I had it, but someone from behind clipped me,” he said.

Dax Hill said he was trying to block for Turner so spring him to the end zone.

“I thought he was going to cut back,” said Hill, who has a team-leading two touchdowns. “He made a good break on the ball and from there caught it and took off. That was a good play.”

The Haskins run was impressive. It looked like a 4-yard run but then he moved the pile another 15 yards. In Michigan’s previous game at Nebraska two weeks ago, he had a hurdle in the midst of a 50-yard gain.

“It’s every week now where you go, can’t have a more physical run than that, can’t have a better play than that,” Harbaugh said. “Then the next week, there’s another one. Wow, that’s even better. Then the next week, can’t possibly have another one, then he does. This week the same thing. That play really got our team going. Tremendous momentum type of shift that way. He’s phenomenal.”

Being guarded

Michigan’s offensive line combination was intact the first five games of the season, but injuries have forced the Wolverines to make some tweaks, particularly at guard, the last couple games.

At Nebraska two weeks ago, Chuck Filiaga started at right guard for Zinter (leg injury), and during the game, five players played at both guard spots.

Against Northwestern, Michigan’s regular starters at guard, Trevor Keegan on the left side and Zinter, did not start. Keegan is out with a shoulder issue, while Zinter was in uniform and on the sideline. Karsen Barnhart started at left guard and Filiaga at right.

“Their performance was huge for our offense,” quarterback Cade McNamara said of the guards. “Shout out to those dudes for stepping up. There’s been sort of that scenario at multiple positions on our offense and continually, guys continue to step up and they’re ready to play. There’s not really any drop off right now, and I think that goes to show to the coaches how well they’re preparing those dudes and those dudes as well being ready to play and executing at a high level.”

The ability to plug-and-play on the offensive line has been a source of pride for the position group this season. There is depth, but this also is a function of having players taking reps at guard and tackle during camp and throughout the season for these just-in-case scenarios.

Mystery glasses

Running back Blake Corum showed up for the postgame interview wearing wrap-around glasses that had a Terminator feel to them.

He asked if he could actually see out of them.

“Yeah, I can see. Y’all can’t see me,” he said, drawing laughs

Corum had 160 all-purpose yards against the Wildcats — 119 rushing with two touchdowns, 23 yards receiving on four catches and 18 kickoff return yards.


Corum on Michigan’s 10-7 first-half lead and whether there was some rust not having played a game in two weeks: “Yeah, you know, sometimes that’s how the game goes. We don’t want it to go that way. Halftime we came in, fixed some things and came back after half and showed out. Sometimes you have to battle adversity. Adversity can be good sometimes. We just had to fix some things up.”

Twitter: @chengelis