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Penn State’s Offense Sputters in 18-13 Loss to Michigan

Well, that was disappointing.

Even with the bye week to prepare, Penn State’s offense sputtered for the second straight in an 18-13 loss to a beaten-down Michigan team.

What happened:

The game was truly a tale of two halves.

In the first half, the Nittany Lions were a completely different team than the one that lost to Northwestern. Two long runs from Bill Belton on the opening drive put Penn State into field goal range, and Sam Ficken nailed a 35-yard field goal to give the Nittany Lions an early 3-0 lead. Belton would finish the half with 55 yards on eight carries, a marked improvement from last week’s 50-yard team effort.

However, Michigan immediately responded with a 43-yard pass from Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess to put the Wolverines up 7-3. The pass was somewhat of a lame duck from Gardner, and safety Ryan Keiser appeared to be in position to make the interception until Funchess ripped the ball from his hands and walked into the end zone.

Penn State responded with another field goal from Ficken near the end of the first quarter to cut the score to 7-6.

The momentum seemed to turn in the Nittany Lion’s favor on the following Michigan drive, as a Gardner pass went straight to Anthony Zettel in the trenches. It was Zettel’s second career pick. Following the interception, Hackenberg found DaeSean Hamilton in the back of the end zone to put the Nittany Lions up 13-7 with 12 minutes left in the second quarter. The 10-yard touchdown reception was the first of Hamilton’s career.

Michigan would later tack on a field goal, and Penn State took a 13-10 lead into halftime.

Unfortunately, the wheels came off for the Penn State offense in the second half. The offense sputtered on its first two drives to start the half, and a questionable fake punt call prevented the Nittany Lions from pinning Michigan deep in its own end of the field.

The turning point came in the middle of the third quarter when Hackenberg threw an interception across his body to Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis that put Michigan at the Penn State 28-yard line. The Wolverines would ultimately capitalize on Hackenberg’s mistake by notching a field goal to tie the game at 13.

The offensive line was a sore spot for Hackenberg the entire game, as he was sacked six times and forced out of the pocket numerous other times. Even the running game couldn’t save the offense in the second half, as Belton could only muster 14 yards on six carries after his strong first half performance.

“We’ve had a hard time protecting all year long,” said coach James Franklin after the game. “We have a pretty talented quarterback, and we haven’t been able to protect him. [We gave up] six sacks, and a lot more pressures and hits than that.”

Feeding of its strong defensive play, Michigan would then add on another field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 16-13. Penn State’s attempt at a comeback was muted at best, and an intentional bad snap out of the end zone on a Nittany Lion punt gave the Wolverines the 18-13 lead with 1:40 left in the fourth. After a successful onside kick was called back because of a very questionable offsides penalty, Penn State couldn’t recover the resulting onside kick, and Michigan ran out the clock.

“The bye week is coming at a good time,” said Franklin. “We got a lot of work to do in a lot of different areas. We have to start getting better and we have to get fixed, fast.”

Penn State drops to 4-2 on the year, and will have a bye week before the Whiteout game against Ohio State on October 25.

Player of the game

By far the best player in today’s game was linebacker Mike Hull. His 11 tackles kept the Michigan running game in check, and his one sack came on a big third down early in the third quarter. He also had one pass breakup — he sniffed out a screen pass and almost had a pick-six. It’s clear that Hull is the best player on this defense, and he could arguably be the best player on the team.

Quick stats

  • Total yards: Michigan 256, Penn State 214
  • Yards per play: Michigan 4.5, Penn State 3.1
  • Third-down conversions: Michigan 6/15, Penn State 6/17
  • Sacks (number-yards): Michigan 6-40, Penn State 3-14

Quote of the game

“Just not coming out with the win is frustrating. I have no control over what the offense does. I don’t know anything about the offense. I’m not an offensive player. All I can control is my play, and contributing to the defense.” — Cornerback Jordan Lucas, on the offense’s lack of success.

About the Author

Greg Schlosser

Greg is a senior majoring in energy engineering at Penn State. He is a big fan of Pittsburgh sports and sandwiches with coleslaw and french fries. You can email him at [email protected] or find him at the Phyrst drunkenly requesting the band to play "One Headlight."


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Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

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