Blake Corum was never concerned about the lack of attention.
Back before he became the unequivocal lead back for the Michigan football team; back before he bulked up in the offseason by adding 11 pounds; back before he was throwing up stat lines that were being mentioned in the same breath as players from the 1960s.
Back before the season, before anyone had seen how the junior running back would look on the field, Corum was asked how he felt typically being left out of the national conversation about the best running backs in the country.
“I don’t really care about the accolades,” Corum said on Aug. 19. “It’s cool. It’s nice. But I don’t care. I don’t really pay attention to that stuff.”
In the preseason, college football pundits may have overlooked Corum’s name as one that could be listed amongst the nation’s elite. But after his electrifying performance on Saturday, they’re sure to start paying attention — even if Corum won’t.
Thrust into an outsized role on Saturday, the Maryland native thrived against his home state Terrapins — delivering the offense the juice it needed to pull out a victory.
With sophomore Donovan Edwards sidelined due to injury and an unproven group of runners behind him, Corum was bound to shoulder the bulk of the ground game. As the game unfolded, though, it became apparent that sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy and the passing game wasn’t up to its usual flare that had torched secondaries throughout the first three games.
So Corum was called on to will the entire offense forward and grind out a closer than expected win.
His response? 30 carries. 243 yards. 2 touchdowns.
“With my mind set, I feel like I’ve always been able to carry the ball that many times,” Corum said after the game. “I prepare in the offseason for a reason.”
As time winded down in the first half, the Wolverines leaned on Corum to handle one of their first bouts with adversity on the season. Trailing 13-10 and caught in no man’s land, Michigan kept its foot on the gas — going for it on fourth and inches to keep the drive alive.
Everyone in the stadium knew who the ball was going to. But not even Corum could’ve envisioned what the end result would be. After the offensive line sealed, Corum opted not to dive forward for the easy first down. Instead, he cut to the left and accelerated upfield — where there wasn’t a single defender around to stop him.
“We snapped the ball crashing down, o-line crashed down and there was a big old hole,” Corum said. “So I’m like, ‘Let’s go.’ ”
Corum sent the Wolverines into the locker room with the lead, and when they returned to the field, he made sure that a floundering offense would have enough to pull out a victory. As the minutes bled down and Maryland remained within striking distance, Corum was there, over and over, to ensure there would be no upset.
“Thirty carries, I mean we knew very well that he could handle that,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s trained. This isn’t something that he just goes out and does. It’s a seven day a week thing for him year round to train himself to be in a position to do what he does.”
Last season was Corum’s first chance to be a contributor from the backfield, but he had a defined role; he was the speed back while Hassan Haskins provided the power.
A quarter of the way through this season, Corum has laid questions to rest about who would fill out the other half of last year’s thunder and lightning duo.
It’s Corum, himself.
He rushed to the tune of eight yards a carry, constantly surging forward and embracing contact. It didn’t matter whether he needed to bruise it up to the middle or break it to the outside in space. It was the fact that he could handle it all, that a rushing play would inevitably result in positive yardage, that showcased his irreplaceable value to Michigan.
In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the Wolverines clinging to a one possession lead, Corum evoked some deja vu. On a third down carry, he only needed four yards for the first down to put the game to rest. But once again, he chose the home run option, bursting to his left and taking the ball down the sideline for a touchdown.
Corum’s performance puts him on the map as a player who analysts will no longer hesitate to include among the nation’s elite at the position.
But Corum has tunnel vision. All that concerns him is giving his teammates the proper respect.
“(We can) talk about how many yards I put up but the o-line killed it today,” Corum said. “They make my job easy. They allowed me to get to the second level defenders real quick.”
Last week Corum rushed for five touchdowns, becoming just the third player in program history to accomplish such a feat. Yet, whether it was the fact that he rushed for just 72 total yards or that the Wolverines were facing UConn, the performance still felt pedestrian, despite its record-setting nature.
It lacked the typical Corum sizzle.
But just a week later, with the offense in dire need of a bellcow, Corum set the field ablaze.