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No Harbaugh, no problem as No. 2 Michigan rolls

Before the game, Blake Corum warmed up wearing a ski hat that summed up Michigan’s attitude right now: “Michigan vs. Everybody.”

After the second-ranked Wolverines were done pummeling No. 9 Penn State, Corum wore a bloodied bridge of his nose and the satisfaction of knowing that everybody is still winless against Michigan this season.

With Jim Harbaugh banned by the Big Ten Conference, Corum, J.J. McCarthy and the Wolverines played unfazed by a scandal that has hounded the program for weeks — and their toughest opponent yet — grinding past the Nittany Lions 24-15 on Saturday.

“We’re one. It made us stronger,” said Corum, who carried 26 times. “Obviously, we wanted Coach Harbaugh to be here, but we did it for him today. We’ve been going through a lot lately, but it’s only brought us closer together.”

Corum ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, McCarthy made a few key plays with his arm and legs and the Wolverines (10-0, 7-0, No. 3 CFP) improved to 3-0 since it was revealed the program was under NCAA investigation for a sign-stealing scheme.

The timeline of the accusations cover the last three seasons of Michigan’s surge to the top of the Big Ten and two straight College Football Playoff appearances.

Coincidence? Plenty of fans think not.

“People can say whatever they want,” fifth-year offensive lineman Trevor Keegan said. “We know what’s true. We know what’s in this locker room. We trust each other. We’re brothers, we’re in this thing together. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

The struggles in big games continued for coach James Franklin and Penn State (8-2, 5-3, No. 10 CFP), which scored a combined 27 points in losses to Big Ten East rivals Ohio State and Michigan this season.

“We’ve lost to the No. 1 and the No. 3 team in the country, that’s not good enough,” Franklin said. “We have to find ways to win those games.”

In a game Harbaugh no doubt loved from afar, on what turned into a chilly and gray day in Happy Valley, the Wolverines ran the ball on 32 straight plays that counted, starting with the final two of the first half and ending with a couple of kneeldowns.

“As we got in the game, obviously the running game became a priority and I think our guys up front really asserted themselves to be dominant and those backs ran super hard,” said offensive coordinator and line coach Sherrone Moore, who took over as acting head coach with Harbaugh out.

McCarthy bounded off the field after doing a couple of postgame interviews, pumping his fists and flexing while being cheered by the Michigan fans in the stands.

He said the team FaceTimed with Harbaugh after the win.

“He was a jolly good fellow,” McCarthy said, referring to the jingle Harbaugh likes to have the team sing to celebrate the star of a game.

The 27th of the 32 straight runs was Corum’s 30-yard touchdown to seal it with 4:15 left.

McCarthy’s lone throw during the streak drew a Penn State pass interference flag. He finished 7 for 8 for 60 yards for the game — officially 0 for 0 in the second half.

It was a matter-of-fact victory for the best scoring defense in the country on a day that began anything but normal.

The Wolverines left their hotel just outside of State College without their head coach Saturday morning but did not know for sure he would not be with them until after they arrived at Beaver Stadium. About 90 minutes before kickoff, the school confirmed that a judge had not made a ruling on its request for a temporary restraining order against the Big Ten and Commissioner Tony Petitti.

Petitti and the conference handed down what amounted to a three-game suspension of Harbaugh on Friday as punishment for Michigan for an in-person scouting and sign-stealing operation the Big Ten determined violated its sportsmanship policy.

Moore led the Wolverines onto the field to start the game and was in tears doing a postgame TV interview that turned out to be PG-13 as he dropped a few naughty words.

“Did this for you. For this university, the president, our AD. We got the best players, best university, best alumni in the country. Love you guys,” Moore said.

Fans who didn’t know Michigan was playing without its head coach probably would not have noticed a difference in the Wolverines.

Penn State, Michigan’s first ranked opponent this season, got on the board first and became the first team to produce a first-and-goal situation against Michigan. The Wolverines were ready for it, forcing the Nittany Lions to kick a 21-yard field goal with 2:17 left in the first quarter.

It was rare deficit for the Wolverines and it did not last long. Corum capped a 75-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run less than four minutes into the second quarter to make it 7-3 Michigan.

After Michigan forced another punt, with Penn State facing fourth-and-foot from its own 35, the Wolverines went on the march again. They beat the Penn State blitz on third-and-long with a run by Donovan Edwards that went for a 22-yard touchdown.

The Nittany Lions responded with a touchdown drive, converting twice on fourth down along the way before Allar went 11 yards on a draw for a TD. The 2-point play failed and it was 14-9 Michigan at the half, the closest game at the break of the season for the Wolverines.

Michigan turned Allar’s lost fumble at midfield into a 45-yard drive — all runs — that only resulted in a field goal but took 8:04 off the clock in the third quarter and put the Wolverines up eight.

That was enough for a Michigan defense. A late touchdown by Penn State marked the first time this season the Wolverines have permitted more than one TD in a game.

“I’ll say it: It’s the best defense in the country,” Moore said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan: The Wolverines improved to 4-0 in games without Harbaugh this season. He served a school-imposed suspension for the team’s first three games as a penalty for an unrelated NCAA recruiting violations case.

Moore served as acting coach against in Game 3 against Bowling Green. He said that during the week, as the possibility of a suspension loomed, Harbaugh told him that the job might be his again.

Penn State: It’s the same old story for Penn State. Under Franklin, the Nittany Lions are 3-17 vs. top-10 teams, including 1-14 vs. Ohio State and Michigan teams ranked in the top 10.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines go to Maryland, with or without Harbaugh.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions play their final home game of the season against Rutgers.



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