As Blake Corum sauntered up to the podium after Saturday’s game — a 29-7 win over in-state rival Michigan State — he was brimming with excitement. His face beamed, his smile seemed even wider than usual and he sure felt like talking.
And, why wouldn’t he?
Just eight games into the season, Corum has over 1,000 rushing yards. He’s tied for the most rushing touchdowns in the country with 14, he’s top-10 in the country in rushing yards and he has legitimate Heisman Trophy aspirations.
For the first time in his career at Michigan, Corum is ‘the guy’ — and he’s letting everyone know it.
“Y’all like that, huh?” Corum said as he took his seat at the podium. “I thought Tuck’ was comin’? That’s what they said this offseason, right? … I just saw them running.”
He didn’t stop talking there, either, and he certainly didn’t stop smiling. When he was asked whether or not there was a lot of trash-talking during the game given the rivalry, he kept the same energy.
“We don’t talk we just do,” Corum said.
But, what about from the other side?
“You can only talk so much when you’re getting punished. (They) got quiet real quick.”
The Wolverines won on the line of scrimmage early and often. Behind Corum, they ran through the Spartans’ defense ad nauseam.
Corum had reason to talk, and on Saturday night, he finally got his vindication.
Through his first two seasons as a Wolverine, Corum never got to see the Paul Bunyan trophy, he never had his chance to be the No. 1 running back — he never got to have his moment.
Look at this very game last year. Corum had just 45 yards on 13 carries, but that wasn’t all. He was part of the muffled exchange with then-freshman J.J. McCarthy that led to the fumble that gave Michigan State its game-winning touchdown.
This year though? A bit better: 33 carries, 177 yards and his team’s only two touchdowns.
Suffice to say, Corum finally got to see Paul Bunyan.
“You know, I’ve never seen Paul before, this was my first time,” Corum said. “So I wanted to make sure I greeted him right.”
He was referencing the pose he struck after his second touchdown of the night: He planted his legs, pressed his fists against his waist and put his head to the side — the Paul Bunyan pose.
Another moment for Corum.
This year, that list of moments is getting long, but it’s been more than just a singular game or event. Two hundred and forty-three yards against Maryland, five touchdowns against Connecticut and 166 yards against Penn State. His domination through every game is what has earned him the amount of recognition he has garnered.
But for Corum, that’s still not enough.
“I can handle more,” Corum said. “… Last year, when I went to the weight room… I was disappointed, felt like I left some things out there. This offseason, I was just working for a great year, not necessarily just one game. But obviously, it pays off, and I think it paid off today.”
Much has been made all season about the work Corum put in this offseason, about the muscle he added. But very rarely does preseason talk come to fruition as vividly as it has for Corum. He is better this year than he was last year in every aspect of the game: speed, power, blocking, catching.
That’s at the crux of his ascension, that’s why Corum is finally starting to get attention at the national level and that’s why he might just be the best running back in the nation.
It goes beyond his performance against Michigan State. At this point in the year, after the amount of continued success that Corum has had, it becomes less about single moments where he takes the spotlight.
In reality, this whole year has been Corum’s moment. And at this point, Corum is starting to realize that.
Maybe that’s why he can’t stop smiling.