3 takeaways from Michigan's defiant domination of Penn State
Michigan didn’t need its head coach on the sideline.
Shoot, the Wolverines didn’t even need to throw a pass in the second half to assert themselves as the best team in the Big Ten.
In a battle of top 10 teams in front of the second largest crowd ever at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, the villains of college football thumped the Nittany Lions 24-15 to remain undefeated.
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Somewhere Jim Harbaugh is smiling.
Meanwhile, James Franklin, his team and the 110,830 in attendance filed out of the stadium facing the reality that Penn State still is not close to measuring up to the conference’s legitimate Playoff contenders.
Here’s your sign
Perhaps game day head coach Sherrone Moore wanted to make a point. Maybe suspended 9th-year head coach Harbaugh put his offensive coordinator and line coach up to it.
Whatever the case, Michigan didn’t throw a single official pass in the second half. Confident it could out-grind Penn State, it sat on an 8-point lead until Franklin blinked and gave away field position and the game by going for a fourth-down conversion with over 4 minutes remaining. One play and 30 yards later, Blake Corum was in the end zone, the Wolverines led 24-9 and the game was over.
Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy finished 7-of-8 for 60 yards, and didn’t throw an official pass for the final 36+ minutes of game time. His 1 attempt in the second half drew a pass interference call. McCarthy did enhance the run game with 34 rushing yards, complementing Corum (26-145, 2 TDs, long of 44) and Donovan Edwards (10-52, TD).
Penn State held Michigan to 10 rushing yards in the first quarter, but Edwards broke free for 22 yards on the first play of the second quarter.
If was as if Moore was sending a message: Even if you know what’s coming, you can’t stop us. Harbaugh is suspended, pending appeal, for the rest of the regular season. The Big Ten handed down the penalty less than 24 hours before Saturday’s noon kickoff, punishing the head coach for the sign-stealing scheme orchestrated by former staffer Connor Stalions. The move probably did Penn State no favors.
Michigan won’t be cast aside
As long as what happens on the field determines the Playoff standings, CFP No. 3 Michigan (10-0, 7-0) has a clear path to a 3rd straight appearance in the 4-team tournament that crowns the national champion. Win out, with The Game vs. Ohio State on Nov. 25 looking like the only remaining obstacle, and the Wolverines should be no worse than a No. 2 seed.
Whether Harbaugh earns a court injunction or remains solely a weekday coach the next 2 weeks, Michigan is on a mission.
“Everything that’s going on right now is just bringing us closer together,” Corum said in an on-field postgame interview. “I didn’t come back for stats, I didn’t come back for TDs, I came back for these guys. … I came back to win.”
Penn State remains stuck
Early on, the Lions got the breaks and had the crowd revved up. The defense was flying around and stuffing the run.
For most of the first half, the calls that could go their way did go their way. Pass interference was called against Michigan. Running into the punter wasn’t called against Penn State. The Lions got a 1st-and-goal with a spot of the ball that could have gone either way.
The Wolverines needed all of 1 quarter to settle in and adjust offensively, bringing in extra linemen and designing plays to use Penn State’s speed and aggression against it.
Penn State had a few flashes of offensive success, taking an early 3-0 lead and converting 2 fourth downs en route to TD that closed its gap to 14-9 at halftime. But the halfback pass back to Allar to convert 1 of those fourth downs, and the Allar draw for the score, were about as creative as OC Mike Yurcich got.
Against Ohio State and now Michigan, Penn State (8-2, 5-2) wasn’t tough enough to match up physically and not creative enough to score enough points. Allar finished 10-22 for 70 yards and a TD. He ran 10 times for 49 yards, but lost a fumble on a draw play that accounted for the game’s only turnover.
Penn State remains stuck. Clearly better than the 11 teams below it in the B1G, clearly short of threatening Ohio State and Michigan without the benefit of some lucky bounces and breaks.