With Jim Harbaugh expelled by the Big Ten Conference, JJ McCarthy, Blake Corum and No. 2 Michigan played unfazed by a scandal that dogged the program for weeks — and their toughest opponent yet — past No. 9 Penn State on Saturday by 24- 15.
Corum ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, McCarthy made some key plays with his arms 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 stood for a scheme to steal characters.
The big-game struggles continued for coach James Franklin and Penn State (8-2, 5-3, No. 10 CFP), who combined to score 26 points in losses to Big Ten East rivals Ohio State and Michigan this season.
In a game that Harbaugh undoubtedly loved from afar, on what turned out to be a chilly and gray day in Happy Valley, the Wolverines ran the ball on 32 consecutive plays that counted, starting with the last two of the first half and ending with a pair kneels.
The 27th run was Corum’s 30-yard touchdown, sealing it with 4:15 left.
McCarthy’s only 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 self-evident victory for the nation’s top-scoring defense on a day that started off anything but normal.
It was unclear exactly when Michigan knew Harbaugh would not coach, but about 90 minutes before kickoff, the school confirmed that a judge had not ruled on its request for a temporary restraining order against the Big Ten and Commissioner Tony Petitti.
Petitti and the conference on Friday suspended Harbaugh for three games as punishment against Michigan for a personal scouting and sign-stealing operation that the Big Ten said violated its sportsmanship policy.
Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore served as acting head coach and led the Wolverines onto the field to start the game.
On Friday, hours after the Big Ten banned Harbaugh from coaching the remainder of the Wolverines’ final regular-season games as punishment for a personal scouting and sign-stealing operation, the coach and his alma mater filed for a temporary suspension. restraining order.
Their lawyers asked for a quick decision from a judge in Washtenaw County, Michigan, allowing Harbaugh to coach against the Nittany Lions in the top-10 game.
“The harm to the University’s student-athletes would be irreversible,” attorneys for Michigan and Harbaugh said in the filing.
But to no avail.
“All Big Ten head coaches (some have been accused of actively participating in opponent signal trading) and my Big Ten AD colleagues can rejoice today that someone is being ‘held accountable,’ but they have to worry about the new standard of judgment (without full investigation) unleashed at this conference,” Manuel said.
Michigan had already played three games this season without Harbaugh on the sidelines before Saturday. He served a school-imposed suspension for the team’s first three games as punishment for an unrelated case of NCAA recruiting violations.
Michigan had a different assistant take on the head coach role each week, with Moore getting one game, defensive coordinator Jesse Minter another and special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh and running backs coach Mike Hart sharing the third.
The Wolverines won all three easily over East Carolina, Bowling Green and UNLV.
Harbaugh returned in time for the conference schedule.
About two hours and 45 minutes before kickoff on Saturday, four buses carrying players, coaches, Manuel and other Michigan personnel were greeted by several dozen Michigan fans lined up behind steel barriers.
Some cheered and shouted “Go Blue!” as the buses emptied.
One fan shouted at Manuel, “Let’s join the SEC!”
Manuel raised his hand to acknowledge the fans, but otherwise Michigan entered the stadium with little fanfare.
The Wolverines went through the normal warm-up routine before the game, with some players coming onto the field for some light stretching in tracksuits.
All-American running back Blake Corum wore a ski cap with the slogan “Michigan vs. Everybody’ on it.
Fans who didn’t know Michigan was playing without a head coach likely wouldn’t have noticed a difference in the Wolverines.
Penn State, Michigan’s first 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, forcing the Nittany Lions to make a 21-yard field goal with 2:17 left in the first quarter.
It was a rare deficit for the Wolverines and it didn’t last long. Corum capped a 75-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown 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 were on the march again. They beat the Penn State blitz on third-and-long with a Donovan Edwards run that set up a 22-yard touchdown.
The Nittany Lions responded with their only touchdown drive, making two fourth-down plays along the way before Allar went 11 yards on a tying play for a TD. The two-point play failed and it was 14-9 Michigan at the half, the closest game during the season break 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, which allowed a late touchdown for the first time this season, to allow more than one TD in a game.