|Blake Corum found holes and ran through them with purpose. (Patrick Barron | shop)|
"It's not as though I really need youIf you were here, I'd only bleed youBut everybody else in town only wants to bring you downAnd that's not how it ought to beI know it might sound strange but I believeYou'll be coming back before too long."
--"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" by R.E.M., from their 1984 album Reckoning
"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" is, at its core, about Mike Mills catastrophizing what would happen if his then-girlfriend went back to Maryland for the summer, despite knowing nothing about Rockville at all. It is not a perfectly apt metaphor for yesterday's game, but it's a starting place.
Maryland checked in today at 30th in Bill Connolly's SP+ ($), which does have some pre-season expectations still baked into it, but reminds us that it's a major step up from playing the 125th, 127th, and 129th teams in that same ranking. (By the way, Iowa checks in at 27 if you're wondering about next week.) It was known that Maryland had some talented skill players, but it was also known that Maryland frequently played highly undisciplined football.
I do not believe I have ever seen a football game, at any level, with just two accepted penalties for the entire game. Now, one can say that this evens out in the end, that if it's not a penalty disparity, then no one benefits, but given how Maryland was making effective use of some holds and coverages, perhaps not. Then again, Michigan benefitted from a seeming unwillingness to review interceptions, so perhaps it all comes out in the wash.
But if this is about kids from Maryland who go to college out of state, then this is really about Blake Corum and the possibilities of Blake Corum. It was thought that Michigan would sorely miss the sheer legs churning yardage generation of Hassan Haskins, and rightfully so; Haskins was a rare combination of power and deftness that got yards in the toughest situations. But to look at Blake Corum is to see a legit muscleball who has an extra gear in the open field, if he can find daylight. Thankfully, for any of the missed downfield passes or excruciating fumbles by Michigan, Corum's two big runs on short yardage, on a fourth and one hurry up at the line, and on a third and four after a time out, made most of the difference, but more importantly, Corum carried the load, Chris Perry style, with 30 carries for 243 yards, the most by a Michigan running back since Biakabatuka dialed 313 against Ohio State in 1995. Blake Corum was the difference in a game where his being the difference was palpable. Maryland might still be better than people think; only time will tell.
In many ways, this game was a spiritual cousin to last year's Big Ten opener against Rutgers. Michigan was a little more tested by a conference foe than it had been, by and large, in its non-conference schedule. There are plenty of things to clean up, to work on, to improve upon, but as I was reminded on Twitter this morning, it's way more fun to do that when you're 4-0 than coming off a loss.
Michigan will need to be much cleaner on offense next week as they head to Iowa City. where they are 1-5 in their last six games there, but this will be a strength on strength game. We'll see if Michigan can get the win or waste another year.