Penn State gets closeup look at Big Blue blueprint for success in the B1G
Random thoughts on Penn State football (because Saturday’s 42-7 Lions’ loss in Ann Arbor leaves me too scatterbrained to put together a coherent column):
- I streamed the game through Sling. The only thing that slowed down Michigan was occasional buffering. Never thought I’d be grateful for buffering.
- The Lions’ offense can’t stay on the field, the defense can’t get off. Bad combination. Michigan possessed the ball for just short of 38 minutes and ran 69 plays to Penn State’s 47 (11 of those on the Lions’ final drive).
- Trace McSorley has lost his mojo. The swagger is gone. Maybe he’s pressing. Maybe he’s trying to throw perfect balls to mitigate the receivers’ drops and inexperience. But whatever the case, his inaccuracy is exacerbating the passing-game woes. When he overthrew a wide-open DeAndre Thompkins on a should-be TD late in the first half, the Lions were done. On crossing routes and out routes, McSorley too often is hitting back shoulders instead of lead shoulders.
- Yes, Michigan’s defense really is that good. McSorley went 5-for-13 for 83 yards, posting career lows for completions and passing yards as a starter. He was 0-for-3 in the second half. Penn State finished with 186 total yards, with 70 of those coming on its final drive. The last time PSU was held under 200 total yards? Against Michigan in 2016.
- Michigan (8-1, 6-0) put on a clinic in old-school, smash-mouth Big Ten football. In addition to the defensive effort, the Wolverines ran the ball 52 times for 259 yards. They had no turnovers and allowed only 1 sack. The Nittany Lions got a good look at what elite status looks like in the B-1-G. I’m not saying PSU needs adopt Michigan’s style, but it does need to match Big Blue’s toughness and physicality. Do that while keeping the creative offensive flair, and Penn State will be in business.
- Do we have a bad-blood B1G East rivalry on our hands? Michigan certainly reveled in delivering payback for last year’s 42-13 Lions’ victory in State College. Michigan took exception to how PSU handled the end-game play-calling in that one. QB Shea Patterson admitted afterward that Michigan planned to run up the score. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown made it clear they wanted a shutout, which would have been Penn State’s first goose egg since 2001. Harbaugh challenged a late-game fourth-down conversion on the drive that led to State’s only points.
- Penn State fans don’t have much of a leg to stand on in criticizing Harbaugh’s challenge. James Franklin earlier this year challenged a fumble ruling against Pitt with less than 1 minute to play and a 51-6 lead.
- As Michigan’s “Revenge Tour” marches on, it’s worth remembering that a young Wolverines squad finished 8-5 last season, losing its final three. Things can turn around in a hurry.