By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
Michigan has succeeded in Big Ten conference openers winning their last 32 of 34. They made it 33 of their last 35 on Saturday as the No. 4 Wolverines defeated Penn State 49-10. Michigan extended their win streak over the Nittany Lions to three.
It didn’t take the home team long to assert their dominance over Penn State (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten). Michigan (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) led 14-0 after the first quarter and doubled their lead at halftime to 28-0. Jabrill Peppers nearly took the first punt return he faced for a touchdown but stumbled and fell down at the nine yard line.
Just under a minute into the second quarter, Wilton Speight hit true freshman tight end Devin Asiasi in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass. It was Asiasi’s first touchdown and first reception in his collegiate career.
At the midway break, Michigan was out gaining the Nittany Lions 259-50 as Penn State was rushing for negative seven yards. The Wolverines defense was ferocious the entire game but especially in the first half. Not only were they keeping the Nittany Lions run game to a non-factor, they were keeping pressure on quarterback Trace McSorley all game long.
One of the defenders terrifying McSorley was Taco Charlton, who was playing in his first game since the season opener, returning from an injury. Charlton and fellow senior defensive end Chris Wormley tied for a team high two sacks. The defensive line showed their true talent against Penn State, totaling six sacks.
Wormley said after the game that shutting down Penn State’s run game would be key to getting pressure on McSorley.
“We knew (Saquan) Barkley was one of their best players, if not their best player on offensive side, so we knew once we shut down the run we could get to the quarterback with the blitzes and the different things that coach (Don) Brown has us do,” Wormley said.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh echoed Wormley’s statement that Barkley is a really good player and said being aggressive was important for the defense.
“Our guys were running I thought they were being aggressive,” Harbaugh said. “For the most part our guys were there and swarming; they were coming two, three, four at a time I thought it was impressive.
On offense it was the rushing game that was leading the charge after a couple weeks of disappointment. The Wolverines scored six rushing touchdowns on the day, including two by Karan Higdon, who recorded his first multi-touchdown game in his collegiate career. Others to score rushing touchdowns were De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, Chris Evans, and Khalid Hill who rushed for his team leading fourth touchdown.
Smith was the leader in the backfield, rushing for 107-yards on 12 carries. Isaac had an impressive day, recording 74-yards on 11 carries and marched nearly half of the field himself on his touchdown drive.
Harbaugh was very pleased with his running back department. He pointed out each player signaling the things out he thought each guy did very well.
“I was really impressed with the running backs all of them, contributed in big ways starting with De’Veon (Smith) again heck of a game broke loose got the tough yardage and Ty (Isaac) was good again very elusive and good, Chris Evans had a long gain and Karan (Higdon) got a touchdown and some other good runs Khalid was good, I thought our line was blocking well and it was a job well done in the running game,” Harbaugh said.
Michigan will have a tough home matchup next week in as they bring in Wisconsin, who dismantled Michigan State 30-6 earlier on Saturday. The most likely top-10 matchup will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 1.