Penn State 42, Michigan 13

Submitted by Ace on October 22nd, 2017 at 12:03 AM

A matchup problem. [Patrick Barron]

Michigan has weaknesses that playoff teams lack. Tonight, those weaknesses were brutally exposed by a Penn State squad that sure looked like a playoff team themselves.

This game looked all but over in the opening five minutes. On the second play from scrimmage, future Heisman winner Saquon Barkley shifted over to quarterback, ran a read option with quarterback Trace McSorley acting as the running back, and gutted Michigan for a 69-yard touchdown. The Wolverines, on the other hand, went backwards on their opening possession, then watched as Barkley finished off a four-play, 78-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown off a speed option pitch. Michigan, again, had negative yardage on the following drive.

A miscommunication between McSorley and tight end Mike Gesicki resulted in a David Long interception that briefly gave the Wolverines new life. After marching down to the PSU three, it took four cracks for Karan Higdon to finally break the plane. Quinn Nordin, getting booed by a crowd that never forgets a slight, missed the extra point. Michigan's counterpunch brought the defense to life; Khaleke Hudson nearly picked off a screen pass in the end zone.

Also a matchup problem. [Eric Upchurch]

The teams traded punts until a flurry of action at the end of the half. First, an unlikely connection from John O'Korn to Kekoa Crawford set up a six-yard Ty Isaac touchdown to bring Michigan within a point. Then McSorley threw Penn State down the field in the blink of an eye before finishing the drive on a three-yard keeper.

While the Wolverines went into the half down only 21-13, the numbers were foreboding. PSU amassed 302 total yards in the first half, more than Michigan had allowed in a full game this season. The safeties, steady to this point, were exploited in space by Barkley and McSorley. The offense mustered only 141 yards on five fewer plays, still hampered by poor blocking and a lack of trust in the passing game.

Given all that, it probably shouldn't have surprised too many people when Penn State blew the game wide open in the second half. Issues new and old appeared on PSU's first possession of the half. Tyree Kinnel got dusted one-on-one by DaeSean Hamilton on a slant for 26 yards; Barkley dropped a big gain after easily beating Mike McCray on a wheel route; McSorley seemingly juked half the defense to find the end zone on a beautifully designed inverted veer that had Barkley motion before the snap, drawing much of the defense's attention. Just like that, PSU took a commanding 28-13 lead.

Once again, John O'Korn couldn't generate much in the passing game. [Upchurch]

From then on, it was a merciless beating. On offense, O'Korn was improved from last week's woeful outing but still only managed 5.9 yards per attempt. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed when cornerback Christian Campbell beat Karan Higdon around the edge and ripped the ball away from O'Korn. They were really dashed when Barkley toasted McCray in man coverage for a juggling 48-yard touchdown two plays later; McCray had no hope of keeping pace, yet the normally unassailable Don Brown kept allowing that matchup to play out. 

It was academic from there. McSorley added another rushing touchdown with 7:53 to play. Michigan's final possession ended in appropriately inept fashion. Facing fourth-and-nine, the coaches pulled right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beattly, who allowed consistent pressure, to insert Nolan Ulizio as an apparent pass-protection specialist. Before they could snap the ball, O'Korn took a delay of game. After the penalty, redshirt freshman backup Shaka Toney ran right around Mason Cole to sack O'Korn for the coup de gras.

Michigan can only fix so much this season. With the schedule letting up considerably over the next few week, they're likely to try some new patches, potentially including one fans have wanted for weeks. Quarterback Brandon Peters was warming up on the sideline before O'Korn ultimately took the field for M's last drive. Given how that drive played out, that was probably for the best. Now that the conference title is essentially out of reach and a top-ten defense isn't facing M's O-line, it's time to see what Peters has got. While that won't solve everything, it could be the spark this offense desperately needs.

Many of tonight's other issues will be taken care of for this year, at least, by not having to face Joe Moorhead and this Nittany Lions offense again.

They want Bama. They can have them.



October 22nd, 2017 at 12:30 AM ^

They displayed this trait last year too but the upperclassmen bailed them out. There seems to be a culture of entitlement among the youngsters and it shows. I've been involved in football (played through college and now coach hs) long enough to know when I see a soft team. Sorry if that isn't what you want to hear


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:48 AM ^

You are wrong here. If a play doesn't break 100% their way, the younger ones don't catch a catchable ball, block a would-be tackler, or drive through the second level. It does appear that perhaps prima donna-ism sets in from time to time.


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:22 AM ^

I swear, this fan base is the most entitled and arrogant in the country.

Harbaugh is doing just fine. The program is in a much better place than if he weren't here. The team lost 43 seniors from last year, and are probably going to lose to much more talented and experienced teams. 

If you all run off Harbaugh, I'd be done with my Michigan fandom, despite being a UM alum. There's no patience or nuance with Michigan fans. We want to act like we are Alabama, when we aren't even close to that yet and it takes time. 


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:26 AM ^

Anyone thinking Harbaugh needs to go is an idiot, but anyone thinking Drevno needs to not be OC is very much onto something.  He is Debord circa '90s all over again.  He has no experience as an OC in D1 prior to Michigan.  ND switched both coordinators last year and look at them curb stomping again.  I hope Harbaugh follows success over loyalty.


October 22nd, 2017 at 7:32 AM ^

I'm not at the fire Drevno stage yet because I'm not convinced the play calling is the biggest issue (not saying the play calling is flawless either). A lot of the offensive problems have been poor execution on the ol, the receivers, and the QB. Some of that will certainly improve next season and we can truly assess how good/bad the offensive coaching is.

Goggles Paisano

October 22nd, 2017 at 7:19 AM ^

We have a great fanbase.  It is really just the fools that come and post after a loss.  You won't see them the rest of the week or after the season.  Most of us across the world are rationale and understand where this team is and where it is heading.  We are not standing on the ledges or sharpening our pitchforks.  


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:35 AM ^

1.  No issues with Harbaugh.  Love the guy.  Keep recruiting well, find a good quarterback, and all should be fine.

2.  That said, I am not too excited to be playing Rutgers next week for sole possession of 4th place !

3.  Fully expected Penn State to win big.  Take tiny consolation that it wasn't quite as bad as 49 - 10, and a bit more consolation that they were sure trying to run it up, and even more consolation that even had they not been stuffed at the end, 49-13 would still have been better than 49-10.

4.  Lastly, out of curiosity I checked the Total Defense stats to see where we might fall, after adding 40 yards per game to our average yards given up.  Was pleasantly surprised to see it drops only to somewhere around 6th, maybe 5th depending what happens in other games.

I don't have any feelings even remotely close to what I felt during Hoke and RichRod.  Not even close.



October 22nd, 2017 at 12:39 AM ^


How many players returning for PSU next year on offense ? I'm curious to see how franklin deals with that. Also this was veterans against youngsters - we whooped them last year with our seniors. This is college football so seniority and experience in the system matters. We will get better.


October 22nd, 2017 at 1:46 PM ^

consistently stack quality OL/DL, the rest of talent can just kind of revolve around it year in, year out. A strong OL can protect a developing QB, make an average RB productive, etc. Similarly, a solid DL along with scheme can make up for some deficiencies in the secondary.
Teams that have that have good seasons when the top talent they brought in doesn't quite pan out, or needs to develop. They have great seasons when it does.