The story is written. Penn State’s hope for a College Football Playoff appearance, in the four-team format at least, are done. The Nittany Lions played a game not too dissimilar to the one they played against Ohio State, and, unsurprisingly, the result was almost the same. Here are your takeaways.
1: Punched in the mouth
The Nittany Lions made J.J. McCarthy uncomfortable in the first two drives of the game. After that, acting head coach (and offensive coordinator) Sherrone Moore adjusted to the jumbo package. It was enough to notch two quick touchdowns, which, with the exception of the garbage time score, were all the Wolverines would need.
2: The one time
Penn State is one of the best teams in the country at avoiding turnovers. Down only 14-9 to start the third quarter, and with the offense moving the ball pretty well, Drew Allar scrambled for what would be a first down at around midfield, only to fumble the ball away to Michigan. The Wolverines turned the turnover into three points, and, at 17-9, the feelings of Ohio State redux had already sunk in.
3: A self-fulfilling prophecy
James Franklin made the decision to go for two early in the game, which would have made it 14-11 instead of 14-10. The logic, of course, being that in a defensive battle, the chances to kick a field goal would be a lot higher than scoring another touchdown. It didn’t work, therefore it was a bad decision. James Franklin opted to punt the ball instead of going for it on fourth down as the fourth quarter started to wind down. It almost worked, but ultimately didn’t, as Penn State’s good field position was negated by penalties. Then, a little later in the fourth quarter, Penn State went for it on fourth instead of punting. You guessed it, didn’t work.
James Franklin, for better or worse, will add three more examples to his “he can’t manage a game” reputation. And, on the surface, it’s entirely justifiable to believe so given what we saw. But remember, these are the same types of plays that make coaches geniuses when they work. You play to win the game, and James tried to win the game.
All that said, going for a field goal inside the Michigan 10 for the Lion’s first points of the game? That one is a call I did not agree with. In fact, score a touchdown on that one, and these three paragraphs probably don’t get written.