By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
The Michigan Wolverines (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) outshined the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten), 18-13, in a battle of defenses Saturday night under the lights in a Big Ten Conference matchup.
Late in the fourth quarter, Penn State trailed Michigan, 16-13, with the ball on the Wolverines’ 28 yard line. On 2-and-7 the Michigan defense made its biggest series of plays of the season.
Linebacker, Jake Ryan, blitzed and sacked Penn State Qquarterback, Christian Hackenberg, for a 12-yard loss down to the 16-yard line.
On the next play, defensive end, Frank Clark, continues the pressure. He took down Hackenberg for a 13-yard sack to the 3-yard line. This set up a designed safety by Penn State, putting Michigan up, 18-13, with 1:41 left in the game.
“When I seen him step to the left and I seen the ball coming down, I knew it was going to be a sack,” Clark said. “Hackenberg is a great quarterback you know, and he won the game for them last year driving down the field, and it felt good to cut that short and get the W tonight.”
After an attempted onside kick by Penn State that was recovered and called back for offsides, Michigan’s Blake Countess recovered the second onside kick attempt and the offense ran the clock down for its third victory of the season.
Michigan totaled 256 yards of offense behind senior Qquarterback, Devin Gardner. Gardner threw for 192 yards and added 10 on the ground.
Michigan held Hackenberg to 160 yards passing, his lowest total of the season, and contained the Penn State rushing attack to just 1.5 yards per carry. Penn State finished the game with 214 total yards.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke was proud of the way his team played on Saturday in a special atmosphere.
“We’ve got guys who are tough, we’ve got guys who understand what it is to play as a team, to play for each other and to play for Michigan,” he said. “The environment and crowd, there’s no place better in the country when you have a game this than Michigan Stadium.”
On the first drive of the game, Penn State got into a rhythm. They moved down the field on 10 plays for 57 yards but had to settle for a 35-yard field goal by kkicker, Sam Fickens. Penn State led 3-0 early.
Michigan would answer back in a hurry. Gardner hit receiver Devin Funchess on a deep pass for 43-yards that was almost intercepted, but wrestled away by Funchess.
“It’s a great play by a great athlete. You got a big guy down the field and once he eliminates the corner, he’s one-on-one with the safety. I took a shot and he took advantage of it,” Gardner said of Funchess. Michigan led, 7-3, with 6:37 left in the first quarter.
Penn State would then mount another impressive drive of 11 plays for 60-yards that would end in a field goal. Fickens hit a 32-yard field goal to pull within a point, 7-6, Michigan after one quarter.
After a Gardner interception to start the second quarter, Penn State finally got into the end zone on a short field. On third down Hackenberg rifled a ball over the middle to Rreceiver, DaeSean Hamilton, for a 10-yard touchdown. Penn State regained the lead, 13-7.
Michigan would answer right back. The Wolverines wore down the Penn State defense with an 11-play, 47-yard drive that led to a 45-yard field goal by Kkicker, Matt Wile. Michigan pulled within three of Penn State, 13-10.
In the second half, Michigan turned up its defenses. After an interception by Michigan Ccorner, Jourdan Lewis, in Penn State territory, the Michigan ooffense stalled when Gardner left the game with an ankle injury and Bbackup, Russell Bellomy, took the field. Wile kicked a 42-yard field goal to tie the game, 13-13, 2:30 left in the third.
Michigan kept the Penn State offense off the scoreboard in the second half was dominant in the fourth quarter. After a defensive stop to begin the fourth, Gardner returned to lead the final scoring drive. Wile iced the go-ahead field goal from 37-yards with 11:24 left in the game to take the lead, 16-13, and the defense held out strong for the 18-13 victory.
Next week, Michigan is on bye before taking on their cross state rival, Michigan State, at Spartan Stadium on Saturday Oct., 25.