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.
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.
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.
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.
Illinois: Plays at Northwestern.
Michigan: Plays at Ohio State.