Luckily for Michigan, style points aren’t likely to matter by the time all is said and done this season.

It’s the survive-and-advance part of the year, and the Wolverines took Penn State’s best punches early — and another one-two combination in the fourth quarter — and outslugged the Nittany Lions 21-17 Saturday afternoon in the cold and damp at Beaver Stadium.

With the victory, Michigan (9-1, 6-1) held serve in the B1G East race, keeping itself in the College Football Playoff discussion. Penn State (6-4, 3-4), after dominating the first quarter and rallying to lead in the fourth, lost for the 4th time in 5 games.

The key play for the Wolverines was a crossing-route pass to Erick All that went 47 yards for the game’s final score with 3:29 remaining.

Michigan stopped Penn State on fourth down on the next possession, then ran the remaining time off the clock.

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Just prior to its final score, Michigan put its Big Ten and CFP hopes in major limbo, giving up a tying TD/2-point conversion and then a field goal in the span of less than 2 minutes.

After field position swung its way, Penn State went 53 yards in 15 plays to tie the game, converting on fourth down 3 times. Clifford capped the drive with a TD pass to TE Tyler Warren and 2-point throw into a tight window to Jahan Dotson. A few plays later, Arnold Ebiketie stripped Cade McNamara of the ball and Derrick Tangelo recovered, setting up Jordan Stout’s go-ahead 31-yard field goal.

But after falling behind 17-14, McNamara led the Wolverines 75 yards on 6 plays.

Michigan took care of business with its standard game plan: heavy doses of Hassan Haskins, a few clutch throws from Cade McNamara, and a relentless defense that racked up 7 sacks. It needed all of that against Penn State and do-everything quarterback Sean Clifford, who kept getting back up — literally and figuratively.

With RB Blake Corum out with an injury, Haskins took on a heavy load for a second straight week. He carried a career-high 31 times for 156 yards, helping Michigan’s offense get going after an extremely slow start. He also played a key role in the passing game, snaring mostly short throws and battling for tough yards after the catch. He finished with 5 catches for 45 yards.

PSU dominates 1st quarter

With Clifford leading the way with key runs and throws, Penn State racked up 145 yards as the Lions ran 33 offensive plays to Michigan’s 6. That’s the largest play differential for a first quarter in FBS play this season, as the Lions’ up-tempo attack produced a bunch of yards and first downs but only 3 points.

Pulling out all the stops (Jordan Stout threw for a first down on a fake punt), the Lions produced the game’s first 10 first downs and held the ball for 13:23 of the game’s first 16:41.  Unfortunately for Penn State, no all the gambles worked. A fake field-goal from the 3-yard line cost the team 3 points and 26 yards of field position after a fumble recover and return.

Michigan went 3-and-out on its first 2 drives, committing a false start penalty in each — seemingly affected by the roar of a crowd braving temperatures in the 30s with occasional rain and even a few snowflakes.

Michigan takes over in 2nd

And once Michigan finally got a first down, it keep going for a 15-play, 90-yard drive that took 7:30 off the clock in the second quarter.

Haskins led the way. After only 2 carries for 8 yards in the first quarter, he racked up 46 rushing yards and 42 on 4 receptions in the second 15 minutes. McNamara got going too, going 7-for-10 for 98 yards and a 21-yard TD strike to Roman Wilson.

The Wolverines dominated the quarter to the tune of a 136-26 advantage in yardage and 10-1 in first downs. In fact, Penn State lost 18 yards on 10 plays outside of a 44-yard catch-and-run by Parker Washington to set up Stout’s 2nd field goal late in the half.