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Recap: Penn State holds off Michigan 28-21

Well, that certainly was something, wasn’t it?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The scene at the Whiteout was electric as No. 7 Penn State took on No. 16 Michigan.

The Nittany Lions won the toss and deferred their choice, so the Wolverines and quarterback Shea Patterson took the ball first. The Nittany Lion crowd made their impact early, as the visitors were forced to call a timeout prior to their first offense play. Following the stoppage, Patterson threw incomplete, ran for a short gain, then on 3rd and 8, fired over the middle to Nico Collins for a gain of 17. Michigan completed passes on their next two plays, but on third and one, Tariq Castro-Fields and Jan Johnson stuffed Hassan Haskins, forcing a Wolverine punt.

Journey Brown got the Nittany Lions’ first drive started off with an 11-yard burst, but the Nittany Lions were unable to muster enough for another first down and Blake Gillikin was called into service. Michigan went backwards on their next drive, mostly thanks to a false start penalty on third down, and Penn State had their second crack with the ball.

From their own 34, Noah Cain picked up a first down on a swing pass, giving the Nittany Lions the ball at their own 45. After a short run by Sean Clifford, the redshirt sophomore found Jahan Dotson with a beautiful 37-yard strike down the left sideline, and on the ensuing play hit Pat “Free Moose” Freiermuth for an easy 17-yard touchdown. Jake Pinnegar’s extra point made the score 7-0 Nittany Lions with 5:59 left in the opening stanza.

Michigan started their next drive deep in their own territory thanks to a bobbled kickoff, but Patterson hit Nick Eubanks over the middle for 19 yards on 3rd and long. Patterson scrambled for another first down a few plays later, and two plays later, Zach Charbonnet picked up another first down to bring the ball into Nittany Lion territory. Later in the drive, the Wolverines were faced with a fourth down and three from the Penn State 36, but Patterson’s pass was broken up by John Reid.

The very next play, Ricky Slade reminded Nittany Lions fans he was still worth thinking about, as he ripped off a 44-yard run straight up the middle. Three plays later, Clifford bullied his way down to the eight, and two plays after that (after two straight offsides calls against Michigan), Clifford snuck his way in for a 14-0 advantage on the first play of the second quarter.

The teams traded three-and-outs before the Wolverines were able to pick up a first down. Later in the drive, Patterson attempted to set up a screen to Charbonnet, but Castro-Fields stepped in front and nabbed the ball, giving the Nittany Lions the ball in Michigan territory. Clifford then found KJ Hamler for 18 yards down to the Wolverine 32, and then hit Hamler on a beautiful rainbow down the left sideline to give the Nittany Lions a 21-0 lead with 7:22 left in the first half.

Michigan moved the ball into Penn State territory on a 30-yard pass from Patterson to Collins, and Haskins picked up another first down down to the Nittany Lion 33. Donovan Peoples-Jones grabbed a third down pass for a first down, and on the next play, a wild touchdown off of a fumble recovery was wiped out due to an ineligible man downfield penalty. Two plays later, Charbonnet ran it in to cut the Penn State lead to 21-7 with 2:55 left in the half.

Penn State missed an opportunity to answer, with a bomb by Clifford just evading Dotson’s outstretched hands. Michigan moved the ball to the Penn State 41 on their next drive, but the home defense held, forcing a 58-yard field goal by Jake Moody, which fell short, making the score 21-7 Nittany Lions at the break.

After Hamler’s 100-yard kick return was wiped out due to a holding call, Noah Cain picked up a first down on a rush, but the offense stalled, punting the ball back to Peoples-Jones and Michigan. A pass interference penalty against Lamont Wade extended the Wolverine drive, but Garrett Taylor deposited Patterson for a seven-yard loss on 3rd down. The Michigan defense forced two straight three and outs, and cut into the Nittany Lion lead late in the third quarter, driving 65 yards in eight plays, ending in another Charbonnet score to make it 21-14.

Penn State finally got out of their funk on the ensuing drive, as Clifford connected with Hamler for a first down, then hit the speedster wide open down the field for a 53-yard score, pushing the lead back to two scores at 28-14 with 13:14 left. The Wolverines continued their offensive success on the next possession, driving 75 yards and ending with a Patterson sneak on fourth down and goal from the one to make it 28-21.

The Nittany Lions went three-and-out on their next drive, and Peoples-Jones returned the punt to the Penn State 47. The Wolverines moved the ball down to the 7, where the defense rose up one last time.

On first down, Charbonnet picked up a couple yards. On second down, Patterson picked up two more to the three. On third down, the pass rush forced Patterson off his rhythm, and he fired incomplete in the end zone. Finally, on fourth down, Patterson’s pass to Ronnie Bell was dropped in the end zone, giving the Nittany Lions the ball at the 3 with 2:01 left.

On the ensuing drive, Hamler lowered his head and gave his body up on 3rd and short to clinch the victory.

Sean Clifford was 14/25 for 182 yards and three touchdowns. KJ Hamler was the unquestioned star offensively, catching six balls for 108 yards and two crucial touchdowns. Defensively, Micah Parsons had 14 tackles, Garrett Taylor recorded the team’s only sack, and Tariq Castro-Fields grabbed an interception.

It may not have been pretty, but Penn State is 7-0.