Michigan’s Raymon Taylor breaks up a pass to Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton.
By Mary Cunningham
A Penn State offense that was humming on all cylinders as the Nits ran up a 4-0 record cost them dearly last night.
James Franklin’s squad wasted a terrific defense performance and managed to lose 18-13 to a struggling Michigan team in front of 113,085 at Michigan Stadium.
The Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-2) were playing a team that was ready to crumble, leading 13-10 midway through the third quarter.
Leading rusher Derrick Green was out with an injury.
Dual-threat quarterback Devin Gardner was being contained.
There wasn’t much Brady Hoke’s team could do against Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s players.
Not with stalwart defensive tackle Anthony Zettel intercepting a pass that set up a Penn State touchdown in the first half.
Not with Lions middle linebacker Mike Hull, who finished with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, doing his very best Sean Lee impersonation.
Penn State’s defense had this game in hand.
Michigan finished the game with 256 total yards. The Wolverines averaged just 2.1 yards per rush.
It was up to the Lions’ offense and special teams — and coaching staff — to lose the game.
And that’s just what happened.
Two plays killed Penn State in the second half as Michigan scored the game’s final 11 points after PSU had taken a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter on quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s 10-yard scoring dart to wideout DaeSean Hamilton down the left seam.
There was nothing coming from the offense, or the special teams, after that TD.
Penn State’s bye week produced little improvement from either group, and the Lions’ offensive issues were compounded by a limited appearance by play-making wideout Eugene Lewis (three catches, 17 yards) who, strangely, was not injured, according to Franklin.
First, with PSU facing a fourth-and-11 at the Michigan 37 midway through the third quarter, again up 13-10, the Lions attempted a fake punt with speedy corner Grant Haley taking a handoff and running left to right.
He had nowhere to go. U-M had it covered and Haley lost 2 yards before he was stopped by linebacker Mike McCray.
Why not punt it and either pin the Michigan offense or force it to start from the 20?
The Wolverines, taking possession at their 39, went three-and-out but the ensuing U-M punt was downed at the PSU 6.
Field position had significantly changed. The Lions were backed up.
And then four plays later, after Hackenberg had connected with tight end Jesse James for 16 yards and a first down, the PSU QB was pressured and forced an ill-advised pass in the direction of true freshman wideout Chris Godwin on third-and-4. It never had a chance. A sack or a throw-away incompletion would have preserved the lead.
Michigan defensive back Jourdan Lewis intercepted the Hackenberg pass at the PSU 32 and returned it 4 yards.
The PSU D held, but the hosts converted the turnover into a 42-yard Matt Wile field goal.
The game was tied at 13 with 2:30 to play in the third quarter.
Momentum was on Michigan’s side.
The Lions never recovered.