Michigan takes care of Penn State, sets up huge showdown against Ohio State
Final: No. 12 Michigan 28, Penn State 16
Key play: Muffed punt in middle of third quarter by DeAndre Thompkins
Penn State had a chance to get the ball back and take the lead in the third quarter. Instead, Thompkins fumbled a fair catch and the Wolverines took over in the red zone. Sione Houma then converted on third down to give Michigan a key two-possession lead. Penn State couldn’t keep any momentum on Saturday. That costly turnover was a prime example of that.
Telling stat: Saquon Barkley held to 12 yards after monster run
Barkley started off the game with a bang. He took a carry on the first drive 56 yards deep into Michigan territory. It looked like the Penn State freshman was going to do exactly what Jordan Howard did to the Michigan defense last week. Then, the Wolverines found the ingredient that made them one of the nation’s best run defenses before last week. Joe Bolden and Chris Wormley helped keep Barkley in check for the rest of the day. For him to only gain 12 yards on 14 carries after that blazing start is a credit to an incredible in-game adjustment by Michigan.
–Jake Rudock led another Michigan win
In the beginning of the season, it seemed that Michigan was winning despite Rudock. Now, the Wolverines are winning because of him. On a day in which they were held to under three yards per carry, Rudock didn’t allow the Michigan offense to be held back. He connected with Jehu Chesson early, he found Jake Butt and Amarah Darboh on key situations late and looked every bit like the offensive leader Michigan needed. That’s now three straight games in which Rudock was the star of a Michigan victory. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody with more in-season improvement than Rudock.
-Carl Nassib starts, comes out (right arm)
There was an assumption that Nassib would be fine for Saturday’s game. He left the fourth quarter against Northwestern two weeks ago and had a bye week to rest is arm injury. And when he took the field to start the game, it appeared that Nassib would be good to go. That, however, was the last we saw of Nassib for the rest of the day. The nation’s sack leader had his first sack-less game of the year on senior day. As a result, Penn State didn’t have the most dangerous pass-rusher in the country and Rudock had more time than he probably should’ve. The Lions couldn’t get enough pressure on Rudock, and as a result, the nation’s best sacking team was on its heels.
What it means: Michigan’s B1G East hopes are alive and well
Michigan did exactly what it had to do, and it didn’t even take a nail-biter finish to get the job done. For arguably the first time all year, the Wolverines went into a hostile environment and took care of business in convincing fashion. To say that this team will have some juice going into next week’s showdown against Ohio State will be an understatement. Michigan, which still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff, has to win these final games convincingly. Saturday was a good start to that.