Michigan fell behind two plays into its anticipated match-up at No. 2 Penn State and never fully caught up as the Nittany Lions won their seventh game in a row to start the season, 42-13, Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. Penn State scored 28 straight points after Michigan had cut a 14-0 deficit to one point in the second quarter to run away with the victory.
The loss drops the Wolverines to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Penn State junior running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley scored three touchdowns, including two rushing in the first quarter, while compiling xxx total yards from scrimmage. Barkley scored on a 69-yard run on the second play from scrimmage to give Penn State the lead. He added a 15-yard run on the next drive to put Michigan in a hole. Michigan fought back to a 14-13 deficit on a pair of touchdown drives, a comeback that was kick-started with an interception by sophomore cornerback David Long.
INTERCEPTION! David Long picks off Trace McSorley to give the football back to Michigan. pic.twitter.com/XhlciefqwK
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) October 22, 2017
Michigan hadn’t allowed more than 20 points and 278 yards in a game this season but Penn State surpassed both totals by halftime as it led 21-13 with 302 yards after two quarters. The Nittany Lions ended up outgaining Michigan 506-269.
What it means
Any shot of Michigan contending for the Big Ten East title is realistically gone. It was a growing experience for an inexperienced team. Penn State surged early but Michigan recovered to make it a game in the second quarter, but the Nittany Lions have too much firepower on offense, even for a defense as talented as the Wolverines. Penn State found the mismatches it wanted and exploited them repeatedly.
3 Things we learned
1. Michigan needs to be perfect on offense in these games: The Wolverines came into the game knowing they needed to keep the ball away from Penn State as much as possible, but they didn’t convert their first third-down until late in the second quarter. Four of the first six possessions resulted in three-and-outs. After driving 67 yards on 8 plays and getting a 6-yard touchdown by Ty Isaac to cut Penn State’s lead to 14-13, Michigan managed just 110 yards on its final six possessions.
2. There is no fear of the Michigan passing game: John O’Korn was 16 of 28 for 166 yards. Only a couple of his throws were down the field. Penn State loaded up in the box against the Michigan run game and dared the Wolverines to throw the ball. They couldn’t.
3. The Michigan defense is human: Penn State is a talented and balanced offensive group. As aggressive as Michigan is, it still couldn’t put pressure on quarterback Trace McSorley consistently enough. Penn State found mismatches in its favor and exploited them throughout the game.
Player of the game
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley completed 17 of 26 passes for 282 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, and added 76 more yards and 3 touchdowns on 11 carries. Penn State has weapons galore on offense but McSorley is the guy who makes it all go. He was all go Saturday night.
Play of the game
It would be easy to choose Barkley’s 69-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, but Michigan recovered from that early punch. It was 14-13 late in the second quarter when McSorley completed two big passes, the first for 36 yards to wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and then a 17-yard gain to tight end Mike Gesicki to set up a first-and-goal at the Michigan 3-yard line. McSorley kept the ball himself on the next play to push Penn State’s advantage to 21-13.
The Wolverines return home to the Big House and host Rutgers next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights won their second game in a row on Saturday, beating Purdue 14-12, to improve to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. Yes, Rutgers is 2-2 in the conference. Second-year head coach Chris Ash has made progress. This isn’t the same team that Michigan rolled 78-0 last season.
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