It's fully operational.
A hale and hearty Michigan took a stumbling Penn State squad behind the woodshed until they were sure there was no movement left, then added a couple more shots for good measure. Before the Nittany Lions' Sad Touchdown Drive, PSU managed only 111 yards on 36 plays, barely cresting a three-yard average—and needing that final drive against M's backups to avoid a rushing Rutger. The Wolverines bested PSU's total yardage on the ground alone, churning out 259 yards with the rushing attack.
They were a motivated group looking to avenge last year's defeat. James Franklin's decision to run up the score stuck with this team, and they didn't shy away from mentioning that motivation afterwards.
"We wanted to make sure to turn the intensity up so there was no coming back from that," said Karan Higdon, who accounted for 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Michigan set the tone early, sacking Trace McSorley twice on the game's opening possession, then covering 76 yards on eight runs for the game's opening score, a read keeper that got Shea Patterson into the end zone untouched from a yard out.
[Hit THE JUMP for REVENGE.]
Josh Uche made life rough on Trace McSorley. [Upchurch]
From there, it was the revenge game Don Brown and Michigan fans have dreamed of when they were able to sleep at all this past year. The defensive front gave McSorley scant time to operate from the pocket, and even when he was able to stand in and fire, open receivers were hard to find. The defense finished with five sacks, two by emerging edge-rushing terror Josh Uche, and a pair of interceptions. Franklin spent much of the second half yo-yoing between McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens, who was healthier but also threw an inconceivably bad pick-six to Brandon Watson on his first attempt.
The offense, meanwhile, looked as complete as it needed to be in a blowout. The threat of Patterson's legs in the run game kept Penn State honest; he made strong reads on his way to 47 yards on ten carries, and the backs—especially Higdon—found plenty of room on the interior. But Higdon, fresh off a national-best seventh straight 100-yard performance, saved the plaudits for his offensive line.
"That's the first guys you credit," said Higdon. "They were out there playing their balls off."
That's a hell of a statement given where that unit was in week one.
Patterson hit DPJ on the run to start blowing the game open. [Bryan Fuller]
While the aerial attack wasn't much needed, it looked not only improved, but like it'll have a higher ceiling as Tarik Black works his way back into the lineup—while his long second-half touchdown was called back on a hold, the penalty didn't impact his route, long speed, or hands. The game was well over by then, anyway, and Patterson had already connected on a deep bomb to Nico Collins and a frozen rope touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones while rolling to his right. Patterson posted an efficient 11-for-17, 144-yard passing line with two touchdowns and no picks. Michigan even mixed in some run-pass options, which got them their other passing score when one such play sprung Zach Gentry wide open up the seam.
Penn State had so little hope of keeping up with Michigan's offense that James Franklin chose to have the Wolverines re-kick after Jake Moody's kickoff sailed out of bounds; instead of getting the ball at the 35 with the penalty, KJ Hamler took the return to the 22. It was, apparently, worth a shot. In fairness, they certainly had better odds of breaking a big play on special teams than in the running game; former five-star Miles Sanders led PSU's non-QBs with 14 yards on seven carries.
Feelin' good, feelin' great, how are you? [Fuller]
"The top thing, the most impressive thing to me, is Don Brown," said Jim Harbaugh. "I'm reminded of the old jingle in the '70s, 'When you said Don Brown, you said it all.' He's the king. He's the king of defensive coordinators. It's so great."
The king stayed the king today. Now Michigan has a clear path to a titanic, Big Ten East-deciding matchup with Ohio State. They look as good as any squad to wear the winged helmet since at least 2006 and they're not afraid to let you know it. They're mocking opponent celebrations and giving pithy quotes about bloody revenge.
"We just played ball," Hidgon said about any plans to run up the score. "Whatever happened happened."
Michigan football happened.