By Eric Williams
FOX Sports Writer
Stop playing around and give me the ball.
In the second half, the Panthers finally listened. And Corbin put Michigan on his back with an 11-carry, 131-yard performance that included two touchdowns in a 24-10 victory over the Philadelphia Stars on Sunday. It was the second game of a doubleheader at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
"It was just the third time we played them in a month," Corbin said about the call upstairs. "We saw something. And my coaches believe in me. I felt like our O-line was doing a heck of a job. We were blocking well on the perimeter, and they were playing the pass. I was just fired up in the moment."
Panthers head coach Mike Nolan didn’t hear about Corbin’s conversation with the coaching staff until after the game.
"I didn’t know that happened. We’ll have to have words later," joked Nolan. "I’m actually glad he did. It was a good call."
Corbin’s first touchdown came on a 2-yard sweep to the right that gave Michigan the lead for good, 17-10 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
Corbin then put the game away by breaking loose for a 52-yard run with a little over six minutes left for the final score of the game. Corbin only had 43 yards in the first half.
Along with Corbin’s stellar play, the Panthers got after Philadelphia quarterback Case Cookus, sacking him four times.
The Northern Arizona product scuffled, finishing 29-of-45 for 280 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Cookus also lost a fumble on a sack by Breeland Speaks on his team’s final offensive play.
Cookus appeared to suffer a knee injury at game’s end and also appeared to have a shoulder injury late in the second quarter, but he played through the pain.
"His shoulder was fine, I think," Philadelphia head coach Bart Andrus said. "In the fourth quarter there, he got hit in the kneecap or something, but structurally he’s good. He’s going to be sore tomorrow, but we’ve got to do a better job of protecting him. That was our issue tonight."
Linebacker Frank Ginda paced the Panthers defensively with 10 combined tackles and an interception.
For Philadelphia, cornerback Amani Dennis finished with two interceptions, but the Stars had at least four other potential interceptions drop to the ground.
Reigning offensive player of the week Josh Love completed 15 of 30 passes for 131 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Michigan. Love’s favorite target was tight end Cole Hikutini, with three receptions for 56 yards.
Michigan's defense on a roll
The Panthers improved to 2-0 with the victory, tops in the USFL North division after two games and tying the team’s win total from last year’s 2-8 season.
The Stars dropped to 1-1 with the loss.
Longtime NFL defensive guru Nolan has Michigan playing well defensively, with eight sacks and six takeaways through two games.
Speaks leads the Panthers with four sacks.
"In this league, the rosters change quite a bit," Nolan said about his team’s play defensively. "From year to year, it’s hard to actually compare. … So, it’s really hard to compare last year to this year. But I’m really happy that this year is the way it is. It is about turnover when it comes to wins. Outside of points, taking the ball over gives you another opportunity to get points that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
"That, along with the sacks have been big plays. The nice thing about the sacks is we’ve gotten a couple takeaways off them, otherwise a sack is just a tackle for loss. And it’s exciting because you get to hit the quarterback, and as it happened tonight, he got a little roughed up there."
The Stars went into Sunday’s game thin on the offensive line with Jacob Burton inactive due to a knee injury. Philadelphia lost his replacement at right tackle in Blake Camper due to an unspecified injury, which affected the team’s ability to adequately protect Cookus.
Stars receiver Chris Rowland also was inactive with a hamstring injury.
"We were down a couple spots," Andrus said. "In this league, you go in with seven active offensive linemen. … With Blake out we were down two starters, and that makes a big difference. It doesn’t seem like it would, but it does."
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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