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Keep Your Chin Up, Penn State Football

While a loss by a significant margin can be demoralizing, it only counts as one loss in the record books.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It is never fun to lose. For the past couple of seasons Penn State has been able to keep every game close, even the handful that did not go in the win column. The last time a game got out of hand such as it did on Saturday in Ann Arbor was twenty-five months earlier on the same field.

The team and fans will recover from the disappointment in time to face the next opponent: Wisconsin. There is still plenty to play for and young players will gain valuable experience in the coming month. While the loss is a bitter pill to swallow, there are better days just over the horizon. There always are.

Try not to let Michigan beat you twice, as the team will be sure to avoid. It was one loss, one painful game to endure. In less than a week the team will have a chance to get back on the winning side of things.

How It Happened

Penn State gained 25 yards on a pass to Pat Freiermuth and then punted on the initial drive. Michigan took the ball 76 yards on 8 plays without a single pass to score first. A Karan Higdon run up the middle of 50 yards was the play of the drive.

Penn State went three and out after a scramble on third down by Trace McSorley came up inches short. Brandon Polk had a drop on second down that almost got intercepted after it was deflected into the air. The Penn State defense held to force 4th and 2 at the 41 and Jan Johnson deflected a pass on fourth down for a turnover on downs.

Penn State answered with a first down to Jahan Dotson on the opening play, then punted the ball to the Michigan 4 yard-line. A 47-yard bomb to Nico Collins took the ball across midfield early in the second quarter. Kevin Givens made two consecutive plays on the inside of the defense to force Michigan to attempt a field goal from the 31.

Garrett Taylor picked up a blocked field goal by Nick Scott on the Quinn Nordin kick, and ran it into the end zone. During the play penalties on each team took the ball back out to the Penn State 35. A pass interference on first down while defending KJ Hamler brought the ball to midfield. Chase Winovich picked up a fumble on the next play and Michigan took over.

Michigan faced 3rd and 7 from the 34 with 9:27 to play before halftime and called timeout after lining up for the play. Robert Windsor jumped offside to shorten the distance to 2 yards. Garrett Taylor stepped up to make a tackle at the line of scrimmage to force another 4th and 2. A tough run up the middle went for 3 to continue the drive. Donovan Peoples-Jones caught a 23-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14.

Trace McSorley was sacked on third down and the Lions kicked the ball back to Michigan with five minutes to play in the half. Peoples-Jones returned the punt back to the Penn State 39 to start the drive. Jan Johnson made a tackle for a loss on third down and Michigan faced 4th and 6 at the 35. After another timeout with the offense on the field, the Wolverines this time chose to punt.

Penn State took over at the 10 with three minutes on the clock, down 14 with Michigan set to receive the kick in the second half. Pat Freiermuth caught a much-needed first down across the 40. On the next play KJ Hamler caught a ball at the Michigan 40. McSorley missed a wide open DeAndre Thompkins on a play that the cornerback fell down, which could have gone for a score. On the next play the Wolverines sacked McSorley at the 45 to end the threat.

While the Lions were not able to score, the ability to hold the ball away from Michigan long enough to get to the half kept the game close at the midway point.

Penn State was able to force a three and out after the half. Cam Brown made a critical pass break-up on third down. Michigan returned the favor, and Blake Gillikin punted the ball back after three plays.

Yetur Gross-Matos came up with a huge tackle on 3rd and 2 to force a Michigan punt on the next possession. Three plays later, Gillikin punted from the 26 all the way into the end zone, flipping field position. A penalty during the play gave Michigan the ball at their own 10.

Michigan got four first downs, methodically taking the ball down the field on a 13 play drive, using 7:05 on the clock, scoring on a pass to Zach Gentry.

Tommy Stevens entered at quarterback with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, down three touchdowns. The first play went well, an 18-yard run for a first down by Stevens. The second play went very badly, as Stevens threw the ball to Brandon Watson for a 62-yard pick six.

Trace McSorley came back in for the next possession. On first down he scrambled for a short gain and appeared to land hard on his injured right knee. Stevens took the next two snaps but the Lions had to punt the ball away with 13:17 to play.

Michigan drove down the field in 6 plays, 53 yards, to tack on another touchdown, taking the score to 35-0. Trace McSorley threw an interception on the first play on the next possession, and Michigan took over at the 12. Four plays later it was 42-0.

Stevens was back in at quarterback for the next drive, taking the team across midfield quickly. Penn State had 4th and 2 at the 34 with just under four minutes to play. Stevens scrambled and completed to Jahan Dotson to keep the drive going. Stevens ran the ball in from 8 yards out, completing the drive and ending the Wolverine’s hope of collecting a shutout.


  • Chasz Wright started the game at right tackle for the Lions. Will Fries entered late in the first quarter and played the rest of the way. Other than that there were no substitutions along the offensive line, which struggled against the tough Michigan front.
  • Micah Parsons and Ellis Brooks each saw time in the first quarter as the young backup linebackers continue to gain experience. The pair played throughout the game with Parsons getting similar reps as the starting linebackers. Late in the game Jesse Luketa played a few snaps, and while the game was already in hand at that point, it was a nice spot to get the future contributor on the field.
  • C.J. Thorpe played over the football in a short-yardage situation during the first half and then was in the rotation during the second half. The young, recently converted offensive lineman provides a big body in the middle of the defense. Thorpe and fellow youngster PJ Mustipher each lack experience, but their bodies are ready to be on the field. While their snaps may not increase much this season, it is nice to know that the future is bright on the interior of the defensive line.
  • Miles Sanders ran the ball just 6 times on the day, gaining just 11 yards. While it would have been nice for the Lions to have been able to run the ball better, simply running more often, when averaging fewer than two yards per carry, is not the answer.
  • Tommy Stevens led the Lions with 52 yards on 10 carries. It probably would not have made a difference in the final outcome of the game, but with Stevens in the game it was apparent how much McSorley was slowed by the knee injury. McSorley struggled to find space, lacking his usual burst of quickness. Stevens broke through the line with relative ease, showing that having the option to run with the quarterback versus Michigan may have opened the defense up a little bit.