The Michigan Wolverines got their first statement win of the season on Saturday, dominating Penn State 41-17. There was a brief moment in the second quarter that the game looked close. But once Michigan quickly regained control of the game, it was never again in doubt.
The ground game led the way for the Wolverines (7-0, 4-0) as running back Blake Corum kept his Heisman hopes alive with another strong outing. The only difference today was he had a partner in crime. Fellow back Donovan Edwards also ran rampant on the Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-1) defense in his best game of the season.
“We’re a dynamic duo, we feed off of each other,” Edwards said about he and Corum. “We both are dynamic players, we both can do multiple things and we’re the best at what we do.”
What Happened Out There
Offensively, the Wolverines got inside the Penn State 11-yard line on their first two drives. But instead of finding the end zone, they settled for field goals both times.
On their next drive, Corum was able to find the end zone and put the Wolverines up 13-0. The game could’ve gone or two ways from here. Penn State could’ve crumbled, or they could start to fight back.
Quarterback Sean Clifford threw the first punch after keeping the ball on a read option play, fooling everyone, and busting up the middle for 62-yards. This set Penn State up inside the Michigan five-yard line, which they converted for a touchdown.
Just five plays later, in the middle of Michigan’s next drive, J.J. McCarthy made his worst mistake of the season. McCarthy threw the ball right at the Penn State defender in front of him, which got tipped and picked off by another Nittany Lion, who ran it back for a touchdown. This gave Penn State a 14-13 lead despite only having one first down.
Michigan would kick a short field goal to regain the lead heading into half-time. After Penn State opened the second half with a field goal, it was Michigan’s turn to throw a counterstrike.
Edwards took the reins and rushed for a 67-yard touchdown on the next drive. The Wolverines would convert the two-point conversion, putting them up 24-17.
Looking to respond, Penn State had a 4th and 6 situation sitting on Michigan’s 39-yard line. Coach James Franklin decided to keep his offense on the field, and it didn’t work, as quarterback Sean Clifford just missed his receiver for an incompletion.
The very next play, Corum took a 61-yard run to the house, erupting Michigan Stadium. The proverbial dagger had been planted.
Not the Offense We Expected
Penn State had one of the better running defenses in the country coming into the game. The Wolverines apparently didn’t care. They rushed the ball straight down the throats of the Nittany Lions defense.
Corum and Edwards combined for 339 yards on 44 carries and find the end zone twice each. At no point in the game was Penn State able to slow those two down. And Michigan realized by halftime there’s no point to stop what was clearly working.
McCarthy, outside of the interception, was subtly effective, going 17-for-24 throwing for 145 yards. He made a few key plays with his legs to either extend drives or at least make it third and short. The one notable omission from the box score was tight end Luke Schoonmaker. He didn’t have a single catch on the day.
Before the final drive to run out the clock, Michigan had 53 of their 75 offensive plays inside Penn State territory.
Michigan’s defense played to the tune of don’t bend, and it won’t break against Penn State. The high-powered rushing duo of Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton combined for 35 yards on 12 carries. The only blemish was the long Clifford rush.
Speaking of Clifford, he too couldn’t muster up much for the aerial game. Clifford finished 7-for-19 and 120 yards before he left the game due to injury. The Wolverines didn’t pile up the sacks like in previous games, but they still got enough pressure to make Clifford uncomfortable and force inaccurate throws.
Lineman Mike Morris continued to dominate the edge, swallowing up Penn State running backs. Linebacker Junior Colson continued his strong play, leading the team in tackles.
Michigan Offensive Line – Both running backs played excellent, that can’t be disputed. But the brutes up front were a huge part of their success. The line opened up gaping holes on a consistent basis that led to long touchdowns.
“Crushin them,” is how Corum described the offensive line’s play after the game. The Wolverines ran for a total of 418 yards, and a lot of that credit is due to the five-man unit up front.
Michigan will take a seat next Saturday for their bye week. They will rest up for their big showdown against Michigan State who comes to Ann Arbor the following week. A start time for that game has not been announced.
The Spartans have stumbled out of the gate this season. They are 2-4, 0-3 on the season. They also are on a bye week.