Michigan finally made it look easy.
There was no second-half comeback by Northwestern, no big plays to rattle Michigan's confidence and no reason not to play backup Drew Henson or even his backup, Jason Kapsner.
The 16th-ranked Wolverines (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) took control with three second-quarter touchdowns and didn't let Northwestern (3-6, 1-5) gain momentum, beating the Wildcats 37-3 on Saturday.
Tom Brady passed for 185 yards and three touchdowns, Anthony Thomas ran for 172 yards and two scores and the Wolverines, who surrendered 100 points in the previous three games, didn't allow Northwestern to score until it was 34-0 in the third quarter.
"We didn't do a thing to keep ourselves in it," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said. "We've worked hard all year to find positives each game. I found nothing positive today."
The Wolverines, who had risen to No. 3 before losing to Michigan State last month, appeared to be in their easiest stretch of the season, playing three unranked teams. But Illinois scored four fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat the Wolverines and Michigan nearly lost to Indiana after squandering a 17-point lead.
Northwestern, which has lost five of its last six games and 13 of its last 14 Big Ten games, never posed a challenge.
Carr said it is hard when a team is heavily favored and struggles. "We fought our way through tough times," he said.
The only tough times for Michigan on Saturday came late in the first quarter when, because of a pass for a loss and two penalties for 29 yards, the Wolverines were left with a third-and-40. The Wolverines didn't convert, but scored on three of their next four possessions.
"Football is a game of momentum. They got it early and they never gave it back," offensive tackle Mike Souza said.
Brady connected with David Terrell on a 26-yard touchdown in the fist quarter and with diving DiAllo Johnson in the end zone for a 45-yard score in the second quarter to put Michigan ahead 13-0.
Thomas scored on a 60-yard run, breaking one tackle and taking advantage of an open-field block by receiver Marquise Walker. Thomas' 1-yard TD dive was set up by a 21-yard catch by Johnson, who spun away from one tackler and ducked under another before being tackled at the 1.
"Michigan did a great job of keeping us off balance," linebacker Napoleon Harris said. "They mixed things up well."
Northwestern's lone score came on a 37-yard field goal by Tim Long with 4:06 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats had moved the ball to the Michigan 12 following runs of 24 and 2 yards by Damien Anderson, but Zak Kustok was sacked for 10 yards and nearly sacked on the next play and the Wildcats had to settle for the field goal.
Northwestern advanced to the Michigan 30 in the second quarter, but was penalized 15 yards for a late hit, Kustok fumbled on the next play for a 5-yard loss, then fell taking the next snap for a 5-yard loss.
"We needed a game like this to get confidence back," Michigan linebacker James Hall said.
Anderson, who was averaging 107 yards rushing a game, was held to 74 yards on 21 carries. Kustok, under heavy pressure throughout, was 8-of-21 for 51 yards with one interception.
"They were able to stop our run game and they also were able to keep enough defensive pressure in the back to stop our passing game," Kustok said.
Thomas, who had a career-best 197 yards against Indiana, passed the 1,000-yard mark with a 26-yard run early in the third quarter that led to Brady's 11-yard TD pass to Bennie Joppru.
The two rushing touchdowns gave Thomas 34 for his career, tying Rick Leach for second on Michigan's career list. That leaves the junior 13 behind school record-holder Tyrone Wheatley.
Brandon Kornblue, a senior who had never played before, kicked a 26-yard field goal for the Wolverines with 33 seconds left in the game.
Carr said it was the type of game Michigan needed heading into its final two games against Penn State and Ohio State.
"We needed to play well to feel good about where we are," he said. "I don't think this team has played the best game it is capable of playing, and thats what we're going to have to do to win."
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