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No. 10 Penn State Overmatched By No. 5 Michigan In 41-17 Loss

No. 10 Penn State football (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) was overmatched by No. 5 Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) in a 41-17 loss Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter before two big plays from the Nittany Lions helped Penn State take a brief 16-14 lead. However, Michigan dominated for much of the game and cruised to a victory in the second half.

Overall, Michigan out-gained Penn State 563-268 in total yards.

How It Happened

Penn State won the toss and deferred its choice to the second half, giving JJ McCarthy and Co. the ball to start the game. On the first play of the game. Joey Porter Jr. was called for unnecessary roughness after a late hit on Cornelius Johnson to give the Wolverines a free 15 yards.

Michigan started the game hot, picking up three first downs within its first four plays to march its way into Penn State’s territory. The Wolverines found themselves facing a 3rd and 4 at the Nittany Lions’ 11-yard line nine plays into the drive.

McCarthy overthrew Donovan Edwards, and Michigan settled for a 29-yard field goal attempt, which Jake Moody drilled to make it a 3-0 game with 9:46 left in the first quarter.

Following a Penn State three and out, Michigan took over at its own 17-yard line. The Wolverines opened the drive with a 35-yard completion to Johnson, followed by a 9-yard rush from Blake Corum to advance past midfield.

On the sixth play of the drive, McCarthy and Corum hooked up for a 9-yard gain to move the chains on third down and move into the red zone. Once again, however, Penn State’s defense held strong. The Nittany Lions stopped Michigan on 3rd and goal to force another field goal. The Wolverines took a 6-0 lead with 1:25 left in the first quarter.

To begin the second quarter, Barney Amor punted it away for Penn State to give Michigan the ball at its 30-yard line. On 3rd and 4, McCarthy and Ronnie Bell connected for 14 yards to push the ball past midfield once again. A few plays later, Corum moved the chains on another third down with a 5-yard rush.

The Wolverines continued to run the ball down the Nittany Lions’ throats, as consecutive rushes of 12, 8, and 5 yards set Michigan up at Penn State’s 11-yard line. A few plays later, Corum punched it in the end zone to put the Wolverines up 13-0 with 8:29 left in the half.

Penn State’s offense finally got it going on the ensuing drive when Clifford scampered for 62 yards to set up the Nittany Lions at Michigan’s 4-yard line.

A few plays later, on 4th and inches, Kaytron Allen found the end zone to make it a 13-7 ballgame with 6:11 left in the half.

Michigan quickly regained momentum on the following drive, as Edwards broke off a 25-yard gain down to Penn State’s 49-yard line. However, the Nittany Lions came up with a game-changing play a few plays later.

Chop Robinson deflected a McCarthy pass, and Curtis Jacobs picked it off and took it 47 yards to the house to give Penn State a 14-13 lead with 4:27 remaining before halftime.

Michigan easily marched back into Penn State’s territory with some help from a pass interference penalty on Johnny Dixon. The Wolverines’ run game didn’t slow down as Corum and McCarthy helped move the offense down to the Nittany Lions’ 10-yard line.

Facing a 4th and 2 with six seconds left in the half, Moody came on and knocked in a 23-yard field goal to give the Wolverines a 16-14 lead heading into halftime.

To start the second half, Clifford connected with Mitchell Tinsley for a 16-yard gain on third down to move the chains. Then, two plays later, Clifford delivered a beautiful pass to Tre Wallace for a 48-yard gain to set the Nittany Lions up in the red zone.

The Wolverines held strong, though, and held Penn State to a field goal attempt. Jake Pinegar converted the 27-yard kick to give the Nittany Lions a 17-16 lead.

Michigan immediately responded on its ensuing drive. On the fourth play of the drive, Edwards broke free for a 67-yard touchdown with 11:12 remaining in the quarter. A two-point conversion extended the lead to 24-17 in favor of the Wolverines.

Penn State picked up two first downs, one being a 16-yard pass to Tinsley, to start the drive and move into Wolverine territory. However, a costly offensive pass interference penalty on Tyler Warren then set the Nittany Lions back to a 3rd and 19.

After a 13-yard rush from Clifford, Penn State faced 4th and 6 from Michigan’s 39-yard line. The Nittany Lions decided to go for it, and they came up empty after Clifford’s pass for Parker Washington fell incomplete.

Things went from bad to worse for Penn State, as Corum gashed Manny Diaz’s defense for a 61-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive to make it a 31-17 game with 7:23 left in the third quarter.

After picking up one first down, Penn State’s next drive ended when Clifford was sacked on third down, which prompted a Barney Amor punt.

The Wolverines kept their foot on the gas with a couple of first downs, including a fourth-down conversion from just past midfield. The game went into the fourth quarter with a fresh set of downs from Penn State’s 33-yard line.

Later in the drive, Moody hit a 37-yard field goal to make it a 34-17 game with 11 minutes left in the game.

Drew Allar checked into the game in relief of Clifford, who was at one point in the medical tent, on the next drive for Penn State. The true freshman’s first drive in the Big House ended with a turnover on downs on 4th and 11 from around midfield.

Michigan kept the ground and pound going to try to burn some clock. Edwards capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the game to make it a 41-17 game with 5:03 remaining in the game.

The game would stay at 41-17 the rest of the way, and Penn State suffered its first loss of the season.


  • Penn State simply couldn’t stop the run all game long, folks. Michigan gashed Manny Diaz’s defense for 418 rushing yards, which kept the Wolverines in control of the game for much of the contest. Blake Corum was his usual electric self with 166 yards and two touchdowns, while Donovan Edwards chipped in two touchdowns and 173 yards on the ground, too. Missed tackles and open lanes allowed the Michigan backs to run crazy, simply put. The ground game allowed Michigan to dominate time of possession, too.
  • Speaking of time of possession, holy smokes. This wasn’t even close. The Wolverines held the ball for 41:56 compared to just 18:04 for Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ offense was ineffective, and it led to the defense being on the field way longer than it should’ve been. Diaz’s defense was gassed, and it absolutely showed with a sloppy, disappointing performance.
  • Penn State’s offense was alarmingly bad today. The team picked up just nine first downs and looked out of sync and uncomfortable for most of the game. Clifford completed just 7-of-19 passes for 120 yards before exiting the game, and the offensive line looked like a revolving door at times. Additionally, if you take away Clifford’s 62-yard run, Penn State had just 21 carries for 49 yards. Shades of 2021…

What’s Next

Next up for Penn State is its White Out matchup against Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 22. The game will air on ABC.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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