Penn State came into today with a chance to make a statement that this was a changed program, one that was ready to contend for a Big Ten title. With a victory, the Nittany Lions would jump into the Top 5, and would cement their spot as Ohio State’s true challenger for the Big Ten crown. Instead though, it was more of what has happened over and over again during the James Franklin Era, as they were out-coached, out-game planned, and out-played en route to an embarrassing 41-17 defeat.
It should have been obvious from the opening drive that this was going to be a long day. The Penn State defense gave up an 11-play, 64-yard series and a 13-play, 77-yard series, while the offense mustered up two consecutive three-and-outs. Fortunately for the Nitany Lions, they kept the Michigan offense out of the end zone on both those drives, only surrendering field goals for a 6-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
The Wolverines would eventually find the end zone though, going up 13-0 with 8:29 left in the second quarter. But the dam wouldn’t break just yet, as Penn State still showed some fight through the rest of the second quarter. The offense answered back with a touchdown drive of their own thanks to a Sean Clifford keeper that went 62 yards, while the defense responded with a Curtis Jacobs pick six. Somehow, someway, Penn State had the lead — 14-13 — late in the second quarter.
It was all smoke and mirrors though. The blowout commenced shortly thereafter, with Michigan outscoring Penn State 28-3 the rest of the way. The defense couldn’t stop the run to save their lives, surrendering over 400 yards on the ground, something that just flat out shouldn’t happen when you have the defensive line that Penn State does. The struggles were highlighted by Donovan Edward’s 67-yard touchdown run and Blake Corum’s 61-yard touchdown run, which sealed the game and ended any hope that Penn State could keep this one even remotely close.
Penn State’s offense didn’t fare any better. Sean Clifford was just 7-of-19 on the day for 120 yards, while Nick Singleton (6 rushes, 19 yards) and Kaytron Allen (6 rush, 16 yards) struggled to find any room to run behind a porous offensive line. It was as bad an offensive performance as Penn State has had during the Franklin Era — which is saying something, folks.
While the players themselves certainly have plenty of blame to share, the game plan that offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz came into the game with straight up stunk. The defense respected J.J. McCarthy’s arm way too much, being in two-high coverage far too often. Meanwhile, Yurcich seemed like his hope was that the Auburn game plan of running ball off tight sets would work against Michigan. Turns out, the Wolverines are juuuuuust a level or two above the Tigers.
There’s no way to put it any other way: this was a shameful loss. The offense was completely overmatched. The defense was completely overmatched. There’s no doubt that Michigan was and is the better team, but to be dominated that thoroughly on both sides of the ball? Embarrassing, especially when you consider the fact that this is year nine for James Franklin.