White Out Blues: Penn State Falls To Michigan 28-16
A game that was closer than it seemed ended up with the score it deserved. Penn State’s overwhelmingly conservative play counteracted Michigan’s litany of penalties, and the better team came away with a 28-16 win.
How It Happened
Saquon Barkley wasted no time in getting started, picking up 56 yards up the gut as he blew past a seemingly oblivious Michigan linebacking corps. In typical fashion, offensive coordinator John Donovan wasted the beautiful field position by firing off three consecutive running plays, all of which were stifled at the line of scrimmage. The Lions had to settle for a Tyler Davis field goal, giving them an early 3-0 lead on Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines.
Former Iowa Hawkeye Jake Rudock, playing out his graduate transfer season under center for Michigan, led a commanding drive downfield after finding himself pinned deep in his own territory. He found Jesu Chesson across the middle for a significant pickup that took Michigan to the 26 yard line. A soft zone scheme opened up space for Rudock to work with, and he exploited it in the redzone with a gorgeous toss to a wide open Jake Butt, who carried it downfield into the endzone to give Michigan a 7-3 lead.
The game’s first turnover came thanks to the ready hands of Brandon Bell, who picked off a clearly frazzled Rudock after getting annihilated by Torrence Brown a play earlier. In a stunning turn of events, the offense stagnated, resulting in a change of possession. Not a good quarter for John Donovan.
Saquon Barkley picked up right where he left off, dashing for another significant gain. The offensive line collapsed on third and six, but a holding penalty negated the sack and instilled new life into the offense. Fittingly, Hackenberg was engulfed on the ensuing play, and watched his deep ball fall incomplete in the endzone. After preventing the Wolverines from inflicting any further damage, Penn State took over deep in familiar territory, but before you could utter the word “punt,” Pasquariello was already trotting out to boot it away. The stagnant Penn State of old made an unwelcome visit to Beaver Stadium, plaguing a unit that had seemingly figured itself out over the past few games.
After tipping a punt, the Nittany Lions took over around the Michigan 40, driving down the field thanks to the poise and command of Christian Hackenberg. Matching up against All-American cornerback Jabrill Peppers, Hackenberg found Saeed Blacknall in the corner of the endzone — a catch identical to the one he made against Ohio State in 2014. With the strike, Hackenberg tied Matt McGloin for Penn State’s career touchdown mark at 46. Michigan responded with a quick touchdown drive, then Penn State ran out the clock to end the half.
Michigan started the second half with the ball and drove into Penn State territory before being forced to punt, and Penn State started its first drive of the frame at its seven-yard line. A three-and-out later, Pasquariello punted to Peppers whose return was negated by a block in the back.
The key play of the quarter came later, when Thompkins muffed a punt at the nine-yard line, gifting Michigan incredible field position. The Wolverines punched it in to take a 21-10 lead. Penn State’s offense was stifled over and over again on the next drive, where a pass interference was the best thing that happened.
Momentum seemed to shift on the next Michigan drive, when Brandon Bell sacked and stripped Rudock and recovered the ball to give Penn State the ball in favorable territory. A fourth-down conversion later, Penn State reached the three-yard line as the third quarter ended. The Nittany Lions didn’t do much of anything starting on first and goal, and ultimately settled for a field goal to make the score 21-13.
The fourth quarter started with a promising drive that featured even more Michigan penalties and Christian Hackenberg scrambling to move the chains on third and 14. The promise ended on fourth and goal at the one-yard line, when Penn State opted to kick a field goal and trail by five points instead of try for a touchdown that could tie the game. The coaching staff’s unending conservative approach was punished on the next drive, as Michigan efficiently made the score 28-16.
By the way, Penn State burned all of its timeouts earlier in the half. It failed on four-down territory towards the end of the quarter, then Michigan ran out the clock with ease. Ballgame.
Player Of The Game
In an ugly game, one of the lone spots of brightness was the play of Brandon Bell. The team’s best linebacker was all over the field and played a game that included an interception, forced fumble, and fumble recovery.
Penn State travels to East Lansing next weekend for a date with the Michigan State Spartans, who will be coming off of a matchup with Ohio State.