No. 3 Michigan beats Illinois 19-17 after Corum hurts knee

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan survived a pair of scares.

Jake Moody made a go-ahead, 35-yard field goal with nine seconds left, lifting the third-ranked Wolverines to a 19-17 win over Illinois on Saturday.

Michigan (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) played much of the second half without star running back Blake Corum, who hurt his left knee after being tackled just before halftime and had only one carry in the second half.

X-rays, though, gave coach Jim Harbaugh and his players a sense of relief.

“Structurally good, which is great news,” Harbaugh said.

The Wolverines will now turn their attention to playing rival and second-ranked Ohio State on the road, where they have not won since 2000 with a spot in the Big Ten champinship game at stake and College Football Playoff implications.

“We’ve been preparing for this the whole year,” defensive lineman Kris Jenkins said.

The Fighting Illini (7-4, 5-3) took a 17-10 lead late in the third quarter on Chase Brown‘s 37-yard touchdown run. But the couldn’t build on it.

With a chance to run out the clock and a one-point lead, they had to punt to Michigan late in the game. The Illini failed to hold on and beat a top-three team for the first time since knocking off top-ranked Ohio State in 2007.

“Very angry. Very upset,” coach Bret Bielema said. “I think our kids did a lot to win the football game and to continually have things just go against us, very frustrating.”

Brown finished with 140 yards rushing and two scores on 29 carries, choosing to play with an injured right leg that he hurt last week.

Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito, a Syracuse transfer, was 21 of 30 for 178 yards.

With Corum out and the passing game off, the Wolverines had to settle for Moody making four field goals in the second half.

J.J. McCarthy was 18 of 34 for 208 yards, missing some throws and having some dropped on afternoon that had a wind chill of 11 degrees and wind gusts hovering around 18 mph.

“A lot of things to fix, but it was great to go out there and just get the win and be in those elements,” McCarthy said. “We haven’t been in a game where the wind was really like that and it was great to get that experience.”

Corum had 108 yards rushing and his 19th touchdown this season on 18 carries before watching nearly two quarters from the sideline with his helmet off. The Heisman Trophy hopeful has run for 100 yards in eight straight games to tie the school record set by current running backs coach Mike Hart, who set the mark in 2007.

HEAVY HEART

Bielema led his team two days after the death of his mother, Marilyn.

“I made the decision really during the day Friday that this was something I was going to do,” he said. “Very emotional time and I’m still just on the high of the football game. It’s going to be a rough couple days.”

JUST FOR KICKS

Moody’s four field goals gave him a school-record 65, breaking Garrett Rivas’ record set from 2003 to 2006, and matched Remmy Hamilton’s single-game mark at Michigan set in 1994.

MISSING MEN

The Wolverines went into the game missing defensive end Mike Morris, who has a team-high 7 1/2 sacks, and dual-threat running back Donovan Edwards due to undisclosed injuries.

Along with Corum, Harbaugh expects any player who is not completely ruled out to face the Buckeyes.

“Anybody that’s on the fringe, knowing our guys they’re going to want to play,” Harbaugh said.

Illinois’ No. 3 receiver, Pat Bryant, missed the game with a concussion.

THE TAKEAWAY

Illinois: After losing two straight games to Purdue and Michigan State, Bielema had his team prepared to play and made in-game adjustments to make the game much closer than expected.

“Thought our guys answered the bell and rose up to the challenge,” he said.

Michigan: If Corum can’t play or is limited against the Buckeyes, his teammates will have a hard time winning next week.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Plays at Northwestern.

Michigan: Plays at Ohio State.

Georgia Tech promotes Brent Key from interim to head coach

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Georgia Tech named interim coach Brent Key to the full-time position on Tuesday after he led the team to a 4-4 finish.

Key, 44, was in his fourth season as assistant head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach before Geoff Collins was fired on Sept. 26, two days after the Yellow Jackets lost 27-10 to Central Florida and dropped to 1-3.

Georgia Tech’s improvement under Key, who played for the Yellow Jackets and graduated in 2001, convinced Institute President Dr. Angel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt to make Key the full-time coach instead of looking outside the program for the hire.

“I am so proud and grateful to be the head coach at my alma mater, Georgia Tech,” Key said in a statement released by the school. “Like I’ve said many times over the past two months, I love this team, and I couldn’t be more excited to be their head coach. We will work unbelievably hard to make our fans, alumni and former players very proud of this program.”

Cabrera said Key’s history with Georgia Tech as a student, player and assistant coach was important.

“As an alum, he understands and cares deeply about this place and our extraordinary student-athletes,” Cabrera said. “He’s not only incredibly competitive but will do everything he can to make sure students grow as athletes, professionals and human beings.”

Georgia Tech had interest in Tulane coach Willie Fritz before choosing to promote Key.

“There was strong interest from across the country to be the next head coach at Georgia Tech, and we conducted an exhaustive national search,” Batt said. “At the beginning and end of the search, it was clear that the best choice for Georgia Tech is Brent Key.”

ESPN was first to report Georgia Tech had focused its search on Key.

Collins was 10-28 in his fourth season. When announcing the move with Collins, Georgia Tech also fired athletic director Todd Stansbury, who hired Collins. The school hired Batt, a former deputy athletic director at Alabama, as its athletic director on Oct. 14.

After Key was named interim coach, the Yellow Jackets beat two ranked teams, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, on the road. Georgia Tech finished 5-7 overall following Saturday’s 37-14 loss at No. 1 Georgia.

Even in the loss, Georgia Tech’s improvement showed. The Yellow Jackets trailed Georgia only 10-7 at halftime.

Key was Alabama’s offensive line coach from 2016-18 following 11 seasons at UCF. At UCF, Key coached under George O'Leary, who was his coach at Georgia Tech.

O’Leary said Georgia Tech made “a great decision” in promoting Key.

“I watched very closely this season as Brent took over and saw things move in the right direction,” O’Leary said. “It was clear that the team responded to the changes he made and played hard for him.”

Hugh Freeze asks Auburn fans for ‘chance to earn your trust’

Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUBURN, Ala. – Hugh Freeze‘s checkered past in the Southeastern Conference means he’ll have to win more than just games. He’ll also have to win over Auburn fans.

Freeze’s return to the league more than five years after his scandal-plagued exit was greeted by considerable backlash on social media from wary fans. The former Mississippi and Liberty coach had to talk about his past during Tuesday’s introductory news conference as much as his belief that Auburn can make a quick turnaround, urging fans to “please give me a chance to earn your trust.”

“Give me some time. Get to know us. Get to know our family. Get to know the truth of our story,” Freeze said. “And I think the ones who have done that have said, `Man, you know what, I kinda like this guy and this family.’

“But that’s all you can ask is, man, give us a chance to earn your trust and I think you’ll like the end result.”

His message clearly resonated with athletic director John Cohen. Now he has to win over fans tired of embarrassments, including the failed 21-game tenure of former coach Bryan Harsin.

Auburn gave Freeze a six-year contract worth at least $6.5 million annually, making him the eighth-highest paid coach in the SEC. The buyout, if Freeze is fired without cause, would be 75% of his remaining contract.

Freeze resigned from Ole Miss in the summer of 2017 after school officials uncovered a “pattern of personal misconduct” starting with a call to a number used by an escort service from a university-issued cellphone. The program ultimately landed on NCAA probation for 21 violations of academic, booster and recruiting misconduct mostly under Freeze’s watch.

Still Cohen, who was at Mississippi State at the time, said Freeze was his top choice from the outset.

“Coach Freeze was completely transparent about his past transgressions,” Cohen said. “He showed remorse, and he’s had an accountability plan that he’s used for the last five-plus years.

“Everything he disclosed to us turned out to be accurate, after speaking with credible industry sources. In this way, Coach Freeze was honest and truthful.”

Freeze’s hiring was delayed after a former Liberty student emailed Auburn officials about a direct message the coach had sent her defending the Flames athletic director after she had made critical comments. The woman said she was sexually assaulted at Liberty and had reached a settlement, a case that pre-dated Freeze’s arrival.

Cohen did not take questions from reporters at the news conference and later declined to comment when asked about the direct message by The Associated Press.

Freeze has gone 103-47 on the field in 13 seasons at four programs, but 27 of those wins at Ole Miss were vacated because of NCAA violations. He spent the last four seasons at Liberty.

Freeze’s first move was to keep Carnell Williams on staff as running backs coach and associate head coach. Williams, a former Auburn All-America running back, was interim coach for the final four games.

He was a candidate for the head job, interviewing with Cohen about a week ago. Williams expressed his support of Freeze.

“I did have the opportunity to state my case, but look, that’s old news,” said Williams, who attended the news conference. “Like I told them whenever they brought me the news, honestly, they looked more disappointed than me. They were, `I’m sorry.’ But I’m like, I’m disappointed, (but) I’m not upset.”

Freeze isn’t the first high-profile coach with NCAA baggage that Auburn has hired. Bruce Pearl was hired while in the final months of a show-cause penalty stemming from violations that led to his ouster from Tennessee.

Pearl has turned the program into an SEC power, but not without more trouble.

Auburn self-imposed a postseason ban two years ago stemming from a bribery scheme involving former assistant coach Chuck Person. Pearl served a two-game suspension and players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were ruled ineligible for at least one season. Person later pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge.

Now, Freeze is getting his own second chance to change the script in the SEC.

“I don’t know if rewriting the story is exactly the right word,” he said. “But it’s going to make for a good ending.”