No. 4 Michigan Steamrolls The Nittany Lions 49-10 In Ann Arbor
James Franklin’s Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) ran into a brick wall at the Big House Saturday afternoon, as they fell to No. 4 Michigan 49-10 in the conference opener.
How It Happened
Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) won the opening toss and elected to defer its choice to the second half. The move immediately paid off for Harbaugh and the Wolverines, as they forced a quick three-and-out, nearly sacking Trace McSorley in the end zone for a safety. With his heels on the end line, freshman punter Blake Gillikin unloaded a 61-yard bomb, but all that hang time gave Jabrill Peppers opportunity to pick up his fumble and burst up the middle for 53 yards to the Penn State nine. Tight end Khalid Hill would put the game’s first points on the board a few plays later by rumbling for a one-yard touchdown on fourth and goal to make it 7-0.
Following the kickoff, Penn State’s offense delivered its first sustained drive, even crossing midfield, but McSorley’s completion to DeAndre Thompkins on fourth-and-five went for a loss of four yards to give Michigan the ball back on its own 46. Junior quarterback Wilton Speight orchestrated an impressive nine-play, 54-yard scoring drive, capped off by De’Veon Smith’s two-yard rushing touchdown, to give the Wolverines a 14-0 lead with 3:57 to play in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out for the Nittany Lions, Smith took the first play from scrimmage 39 yards deep into Penn State territory. Brent Pry’s defense was dealt another huge blow later in the drive when walk-on-turned-starting-middle-linebacker Brandon Smith was tossed following a questionable targeting call for his hit on wide receiver Grant Perry. Michigan Heisman winner Desmond Howard even tweeted out during the game that the ejection was “AWFUL.” Since it happened in the first half, though, Smith will be eligible to start against Minnesota rather than sit out until the third quarter next week. Freshman tight end Devin Asiasi’s first catch for the maize and blue turned out to be a three-yard touchdown from Speight to make it 21-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Michigan’s first three drives ended in touchdowns, but the Nittany Lion defense stepped up to force a turnover-on-downs the following series. However, Penn State gave the ball right back after stalling on its fourth three-and-out of the afternoon. The Wolverines were more than content to slow things down and chew up a bunch of time before the half. They did just that on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 6:15, as sophomore Karan Higdon punched it in from two yards out to give Michigan the 28-0 advantage it would carry into the break.
Despite staring a four-score deficit in the face to start the second half, Penn State’s defense started strong with a three-and-out of its own to give Saquon Barkley and the offense a chance to get going. Barkley showcased his signature open-field speed and excellent hands, as the sophomore star darted around the edge for a 33-yard gain and hauled in a would-be touchdown that was called out-of-bounds in the back of the end zone a few plays later. Tyler Davis finally gave Penn State its first points of the ballgame on a 21-yard field goal to make it 28-3.
Michigan put together a pair of lengthy third-quarter drives before going up 35-3 on a three-yard rushing touchdown from freshman Chris Evans — the third different Wolverine running back to cross the goal line Saturday. The Nittany Lions reached double figures — 35-10 — on an eight-yard touchdown pass from McSorley to Chris Godwin just under four minutes into the fourth quarter.
In front of their 269th consecutive 100,000-plus crowd (110,319), the Wolverines put the icing on the cake with a 40-yard rushing touchdown from Higdon for his first multi-score game in a Michigan uniform. McSorley gave up the contest’s first turnover a handful of plays later, as the redshirt sophomore tossed a pick to Michigan’s Mike McCray, allowing senior running back Ty Isaac to give it a 49-10 lead from three yards out. Freshman Miles Sanders coughed up the football the next drive and backup Michigan quarterback John O’Korn took a knee to close things out.
Player Of The Game
Cam Brown | Freshman | Outside linebacker
The Burtonsville, Md., native stepped up Saturday for a depleted linebacking corps with a career-high 10 total tackles (one for loss) against the Wolverines.
The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. inter-division clash with Minnesota this coming Saturday on the Big Ten Network.