Michigan blows by Western Michigan in opening game

NCAA Football

ANN ABROR, Mich. (WOOD) — It had been 644 days since the University of Michigan football team played in front of its fans, playing against Ohio State on Nov. 30, 2019.

The Wolverines were defeated 56-27 on that day.

On Saturday, the Wolverines (1-0) left their home faithful with a much different result, defeating instate foe Western Michigan (0-1) 47-14 at the Big House.

It was also Michigan’s first victory at home since 2019, after losing all three home games in the 2020 shortened season.

For the Broncos, they were handed a third consecutive loss dating back to the 2020 campaign when they fell to Eastern Michigan and Ball State to end the season.

Michigan’s offense did exactly what it wanted to set the tone out of the gate. 

The Wolverines marched down the field with eight rushing plays, but capped it off with a Cade McNamara pass to Blake Corum for a 14-yard touchdown. Just under four minutes in, Michigan led 7-0.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) leaps into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Western Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

The Broncos bounced right back, but got some help from Michigan to do so.

On a third and 10 on WMU’s opening set of downs, Michigan’s David Ojabo was called after the play for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It catapulted the Broncos on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a La’Darius Jefferson 3-yard rushing score. It was tied up.

After a Michigan field goal following a long kickoff return, both teams wouldn’t score the remainder of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, things started to unravel for WMU.

After a previous deep ball one-handed snag by Michigan senior Ronnie Bell was called back due to offensive pass interference, he didn’t miss the next chance. McNamara launched a beauty of a pass to Bell in stride, who shook off the defender and trotted to the end zone for a 76-yard pitch and catch score. 

With it being 17-7 and the game starting to get away from WMU, its offense couldn’t stop the bleeding. After a three and out, Bell returned a punt 31 yards down to the WMU 31 but was injured and helped off the field. Nevertheless, Michigan capitalized on the good field position.

Wolverine running back Hassan Haskins ran it up the gut, broke through tackles and stuck his hand into the turf to keep his balance, get up and race into the end zone. Just like that, it was 24-7 Michigan.

The Broncos would not get any closer until the fourth quarter when Kaleb Eleby found Corey Crooms for a 27-yard touchdown pass, making it 47-14. 

WMU quarterback Eleby struggled after the first possession, going 20-of-37 for 191 yards and one touchdown. McNamara on the other hand for the Wolverines had a solid opening performance, tossing for 136 yards, 2 scores on 9-of-11 passing. 

Freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy entered the game in the second half, throwing for 80 yards on 4-of-6 passing, 69 of the yards coming on a touchdown pass to Daylen Baldwin. For Baldwin and McCarthy, it was both their first touchdown in the winged helmet.

Corum had 111 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, plus 2 receptions for 22 yards and a score. It is the first time a Michigan player has scored a touchdown receiving and rushing since 2016 when Khalid Hill did it against Ohio State.

The Wolverines outrushed the Broncos 334-119. WMU was able to total 310 yards on offense but could only score on the opening and closing drives of the game.

On the defensive side, Joss Ross and Daxton Hill led Michigan with six total tackles. For WMU, it was A.J. Thomas with 10 tackles, seven being solo.

Today marked the 2,094th consecutive game that Michigan Stadium has had more than 100,000 fans. The attendance vs. WMU was 109,295 in a stadium that was packed from end to end at the start of the game.

Michigan will stay at the Big House next week when it welcomes Washington to Ann Arbor on Sept. 11 for an 8 p.m. kickoff. WMU will open the season at home against Illinois State on Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. from Waldo Stadium.

—Correction: A previous version of this story said WMU will play Ball State instead of Illinois State next. We regret the error.

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