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Penn State’s Defense Overwhelmed By Michigan Rushing Attack

Well, that sucked.

No. 10 Penn State football marched into the Big House just to get crushed by No. 5 Michigan 41-17 on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Penn State only trailed 16-14 at the half, it never felt that close, as Manny Diaz’s defense was having trouble handling Michigan’s rushing attack up to that point. That continued to be the theme for the rest of the game, as Penn State gave up 418 total rushing yards and 563 total yards.

Blake Corum was one of the key players for Penn State to watch coming into the game, as he came into the game seventh in national rushing. But the rushing attack didn’t just fall on his shoulders. Donovan Edwards joined Corum to provide the perfect one-two punch for the Wolverines. Each back scored two touchdowns, as Edwards ran for 173 on 16 attempts and Corum for 166 yards on 28 attempts.

The most deflating plays of the game for Penn State came on a Donovan Edwards 67-yard rushing touchdown after Penn State kicked a field goal to regain the lead at the beginning of the second half, followed by a Blake Corum 61-yard touchdown run on the very next drive.

Michigan’s rush attack not only scored 28 total points but also helped the Wolverines dominate the possession battle. The Wolverines had the ball for a total of 41:56, while the Nittany Lions only had 18:04. To be blunt, that’s terrible.

Eventually, it got to the point where it felt like a surprise when Penn State would stop a Michigan running back for less than a five-yard gain. All game, the two backs just kept running downhill and picking up first down after first down. So much so that Michigan never even punted in the game.

Obviously, head coach James Franklin wasn’t too pleased with the performance, mentioning that Penn State wasn’t able to control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.

“There were just way too many times where [they] were just running through holes and into the second level,” Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “Obviously, [I am] not happy with that [418-yard] number at all. Not one bit.”

As you’d expect, the defensive players weren’t too happy with that number either, as linebacker Curtis Jacobs and defensive captain PJ Mustipher credited Michigan’s physicality to achieving that feat.

“It’s embarrassing,” Mustipher said after the game. “…Any time you rush for 400 yards, you don’t do it without being really physical and really just dominating. But we got to execute. Everybody has to be where they’re supposed to be, and we have to do it at a very high level. We didn’t do that, and that’s how they rushed for that amount of yards”

Franklin also mentioned Penn State’s shortcomings when it comes to physicality in his press conference. He also added an interesting note, saying that some of his players may think they’re able to play undersized like Aaron Donald when, in reality, they can’t.

“We gotta get bigger,” Franklin said. “We’re undersized in some spots. Everybody thinks they’re Aaron Donald now, and they’re not. Everybody sees [Donald] playing undersized, and everybody thinks they’re that guy. There’s been one of those guys in the last 100 years of football.”

However, safety Ji’Ayir Brown mentioned after the game that he believes the poor defensive outing was more due to execution than physicality.

“We didn’t come out here and do what we worked on all week, and that’s a problem,” Brown said in his postgame press conference. “Execution, it falls in that category as well…We didn’t complete the job today.”

With this loss, Penn State falls to just 3-7 coming off a bye week under the leadership of James Franklin. That was a hot topic amongst Penn State fans on social media following the game, but Mustipher didn’t think it was lack of preparation that plagued Penn State today.

“We felt as though the coaches did a great job of getting us ready for this game,” Mustipher said. “We just didn’t go out and execute. They’re not out on the field.”

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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