Memo to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: Don’t let Wolverines ever forget that Penn State feeling

Don’t burn the tape.

Hell, no. Keep it on a loop. Make them remember the feeling.

Make them hate it.

Lesson 1: This hurt. A lot.

Penn State 42, Michigan 13.

Mercy.

Actually, mercy would’ve taken the foot off the gas, eventually. The Nittany Lions had no intention of doing the same, if that last outstretched arm of a touchdown scored by quarterback Trace McSorley  in the fourth quarter was any indication.

One side was young.

The other was hungry.

It didn’t take long to figure out which was which.

Penn State 42, Michigan 13.

Throw alcohol on the wound.

Let it sting.

This the new reality in the Big Ten East. The recruiting wars are personal now. If Jim Harbaugh can twist the rusty dagger on a guy once he’s down, so can James Franklin.

Saturday night was proof enough of that.

Lesson 2: If you know the College Football Playoff committee is watching, make a point.

Actually, make it at least 40. If you’re smart.

This was always going to be an uphill climb. The Wolverines (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) are too green at receiver and too uncertain in the passing game to trade punches with a top 5 team on the road. The second-ranked Lions (7-0, 4-0) are firing on all cylinders right now, marching toward a showdown with Ohio State on Oct. 28 that figures to decide the division, barring something crazy.

Not that we’d rule crazy out at this point.

Lesson 3: Find out who your friends are.

Harbaugh is going to lose a few after this one, and understandably. He’s 4-5 against ranked teams since 2015, and the big games — the marquee opponents — are the ones that stick.

If the honeymoon didn’t end two weeks ago when Sparty crashed the party, it’s creaking toward the death throes now.

Harbaugh’s greatest sin was bringing a John O’Korn to a Trace McSorley fight. He’s got to own that. Better yet, learn from it.

And yet, until the strip-fumble early in the fourth quarter that broke open the dam, the former Houston transfer looked on his way to one of the more poised performances of an otherwise underwhelming autumn. The 6-foot-4 senior was perfect on his first six pass attempts on third down. He showed awareness in the pocket when pressed, stepping out of danger and into cleaner passing lanes, which was smart, or just tucking and taking the hell off, which was savvy enough (14 carries).

But none of it could ever make up for an awful end to the contest, and an even more dispiriting start. The Lions’ second play, a direct snap to Heisman front-runner Saquon Barkley, went for 69 yards for a score. The fifth play, a pass to Mike Gesicki went for 35 yards to set up another touchdown. It was 14-0 to the hosts before the contest was five minutes old.

But in the chess match between Don Brown vs. Joe Moorhead, the worm was going to turn eventually. McSorley was throwing from the Michigan 22 with 3:21 left in the first quarter, driving for a score that might’ve been the final early dagger. But cornerback David Long followed the Penn State signal-caller’s eyes, closed, snared the pass and zipped 25 yards the other way:

Safety Khaleke Hudson darn near had another on a blitz, with McSorley backpedaling from his 6-yard line with 11:26 left in the first half, leaping to swat a screen and almost coming away with the rarest of pick-6s: An interception landing in your mitts in the middle of the other guy’s end zone.

Penn State 42, Michigan 13.

Lesson 4: When handed an unexpected gift as an underdog, take the thing.

Michigan football is in a far better place than it was at this time three years ago. But the program has also been lapped by the Lions in the short run, and the box score from Saturday night isn’t going away anytime soon.

The Wolverines are about to learn that lesson, too. The hard way.

The post Memo to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh: Don’t let Wolverines ever forget that Penn State feeling appeared first on Land of 10.

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