Michigan 28, Penn State 16
White-out notwithstanding, Penn State (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) couldn’t capitalize on errors by its opponents and gifts from officials as they lost to Michigan (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) 28-16. This Michigan win, coupled with the Ohio State loss to Moo U., sets up next week’s twin battles for the right to represent the East in the Big Ten Championship game.
All but one of the contestants in next week’s Penn State vs. Michigan State and Ohio State vs. Michigan games will have a shot at the Big Ten Championship, each having a single conference loss except, of course, Penn State with three.
It wasn’t as if Penn State wasn’t given enough chances to capitalize on Michigan errors. However, they could only muster field goals when push came to shove. The single Penn State touchdown was a pleasing thing to watch, when Michigan super safety Jabril Peppers overshot Saeed Blacknall who hung back to catch a blooper thrown by Christian Hackenberg that looked like a Stu Miller moon ball. It brought the score to 10-7 in Penn State’s favor with two minutes left in the first half.
The Penn State lead stood for less than a minute and they would never lead again, as Michigan answered by driving 70 yards for a touchdown that gave them a 14-10 advantage. The Nittany Lions could muster only two field goals in the fourth quarter while Michigan scored a touchdown in each quarter to give them a 28-16 victory.
Hackenberg finished the day with a miserable 13-31 performance for a mere 137 yards. He was badly dinged on one play and had to leave the game, but returned shortly. After his offensive line allowed four sacks and countless hurries, he looked shell-shocked in there — at the very least, uncomfortable.
Hack’s receivers were pretty well covered the entire game. One pass interference call that went against the defense could have easily gone against the Penn State receiver, but such as it was, Penn State could only muster a field goal as the gifted drive stalled in the red zone.
The running game couldn’t get cranked up against Michigan’s front seven. Saquon Barkley wound up with 15 carries for 68 yards, but 56 of those yards came on the second play of the game when he broke a run right up the gut for a long one. At that point, we thought Penn State would be able to run on Michigan and the offensive line, better known as the Five Traffic Cones, would be able to open up some holes. We were wrong. I think there were only two decent holes for Barkley all game long.
Third down conversions and red zone issues plagued Penn State yet again. As if their horrible third down conversion rate wasn’t already bad enough, they didn’t even live up to that benchmark as they converted only three of fourteen — a paltry 21.4%. They’re now 27.6% for the season, which is good enough for 126th in the FBS, with only 3-8 Kent State (25.9%) behind them. That suuuuuuuuucks.
Open field tackling by the vaunted Penn State defense once again was deficient. When the stats show that most of the tackling is done in the secondary, you know that tackles are being missed.
Michigan, not noted for its offense, was able to gain 343 yards, 256 of which were through the air. Jake Rudock looked very comfortable and composed in the pocket, a contrast with Hack. Rudock might not have the upside potential of the Hackster, but he sure has the ice water in the veins thing needed for the NFL. But I digress. Rudock was 25-38 for 256 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.
Michigan’s rushing was unspectacular against the Penn State front seven, De’Veon Smith having had 13 carries for 39 yards. The long run of the day for the Wolverines was a 20-yard end-around by wide receiver Jehu Chesson.
Penn State made fewer mistakes on the field than Michigan, but those they made were costly, and the Wolverines converted them into points. Penn State was only a field goal behind in the third quarter when freshman DeAndre Thompkins fumbled a punt into enemy hands at the 9 yard-line. A Michigan touchdown quickly followed. That turned out to be all that was needed for the Wolverines to win.
While the whited-out crowd of 107,418 did its job, one has to wonder whether they didn’t do a job on the home team as well as the opposition. Michigan was penalized 13 times for 117 yards, but never had to call a single time-out on account of the crowd, whereas Penn State had several questionable time-outs resulting from slow play calling and lousy communication. Seemed like the law firm of Franklin, Donovan, et. al. couldn’t quite operate at game speed.
The play calling suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked, once the plays came in. Penn State set the tone in the first series, after the game’s one and only great run by Saquon Barkley, when called Barkley’s number three straight times from the Michigan 9, for a net gain of three yards.
It was great to see the officiating favor Penn State for a change, but that makes the loss all the more frustrating. Nevertheless, watching Jim Harbaugh getting pissed off to the extent that he ripped off his jacket was priceless.
One thing you have to say about Harbaugh is that he can get a team cranked up and on the same page, in contrast with what was happening on the opposite sideline, which looked disjointed and clueless, at times.
Penn State sure as hell had opportunities, but they came out uninspired and unmotivated. It was clear by watching body language on the field which team was committed to victory. As usual, Penn State’s lack of team leadership and deficient coaching were all too apparent. Christian Hackenberg was seen pouting on the sidelines instead of being inspirational. It seemed obvious to me that he was at odds with James Franklin several times during the game.
A surfeit of individual talent exists on this team, especially among the departing seniors and potential NFL draftees. It is a shame that they’ve underachieved because of leadership and coaching issues. Hats off to the seniors, though, for sticking with it through thick and thin — mostly thin — during the past four years. These are guys who I’d want on my team anytime.
Penn State has not won against a ranked opponent in the James Franklin era. It’s not going to happen next week, either. One would think that even by chance, with enough breaks, the Nittany Lions could have pulled off at least one upset in the past two years.
I’ll be back with a preview and prediction for the regular season ending Land Grant Trophy game against Moo U. at East Lansing. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET. The line has not yet been established.
K. John says
Ugly embarrassing loss. And no, the officiating did not benefit Penn State. It wasn’t even fair. If it was, Michigan would have drawn double digit pass interference/defensive holding penalties. But such is the Big Ten. They have been doing it in each and every game so it isn’t like we didn’t know it was coming. Donovan took care of the rest with his usual nonsense.
On top of that Shoop tried his best to out Donovan John Donovan. There was no reason to use the zone coverage they used for much of the game. Mass substitutions killed us on more than one occasion. More bad tackling.
The Nittany Turkey says
They didn’t do well on either side of the ball, and did even worse on special teams.
We blame Franklin and Donovan for a large portion of the failures, but given the completely ineffectual offensive line, they might be doing as well as they can with the cards they are dealt. I don’t think there will be a quantum improvement next year, as Mangiro leaves and there are no developing stars immediately apparent. This is a recruiting failure that can’t be completely blamed on Franklin.
On the other hand, clock management issues sure as hell can be blamed on Franklin, especially when they continue to occur late in his second season of coaching at Penn State. We’re no better than we were in the Galen Hall-Jay Paterno-Mike McQueary days with respect to timely communication of plays from the offensive brain trust, which is putrid indeed!
I’m beginning to doubt Shoop, too. He’s got the most talented collection of players out there, but late in the season they still can’t tackle. You can blame some of this week’s defensive woes on the injuries to Nassib and Lucas, but whoever takes the field out there should be well trained and well skilled in the fundamentals at this point.
Sure, they could come back and pull a 2012 Wisconsin game finale with Moo U., but what are the chances? Slim and none.
K. John says
We’ll see how the line shapes up next year. Wendy Laurent is reliable at center which is better than simply being bad. Andrew Nelson has proven to be a reliable player as well, assuming he can shake the injury bug he had this year. He may be better suited inside, but that of course means finding two tackles that can start. Brenden Mahan has shown he can be a reliable backup at tackle and definitely has value. Brian Gaia has quietly turned into a reliable player. He isn’t good but, like Mahan, has a place. I see Dowrey returning to defense where he will be badly needed next year. Palmer’s ceiling is very low. When he isn’t being beaten with a power move, he gets beat with a combo. Not a lot can be done about the later. The former can be addressed with added weight and strength. I just don’t think he is not suited to play left tackle or play inside but could become a asset right tackle with added weight and strength. Some hope here. Simply put, there are a lot of ifs and not a lot of knowns.
The play calling is another thing. I think we know the offense is being limited by the line, however, Donovan doesn’t seem to be trying much of anything different to mask its shortcomings. I have yet to see a true max protect formation. Look back to the Colts circa 2004/2005. Their line was horrible for a lot of the same reason. They responded by loading up with two backs and a tight end or two tight ends and a single back without only receivers in routes with either a back or tight end releasing late once the defense committed to their assignments. I have seen very few slants run by Gesicki, Wilkerson or Carter.
The Nittany Turkey says
Reliable — LOL. Nice euphemism.
I think Hackenberg made it look pretty clear he won’t be back next season. I’m guessing he’s thinking why come back and get my ass kicked, sacked 45 more times, go 7 and 6, or 6 and 7, and set all kinds of PSU records when I might have a decent chance of catching on as a 3rd stringer with some loser NFL team and make $500k a year.
The Nittany Turkey says
We’re thinking alike on the Hack front.Those who believe he’ll stick around are probably engaging in wishful thinking. I do not think this coaching staff can offer him anything in an additional year, and the risk of injury behind next year’s offensive line, which probably won’t be improved from this year’s, looms large. To stay around next year would be to further reduce his NFL value.
I’m not a Hackenberg fan. He has the physical tools but not the football brain. Can you say Ryan Leaf? Maybe that’s a bit harsh but I think we do better next year without him. I’m not sold on this so-called first class defensive line, either. Michigan QB had all the time in the world on the first TD pass.
The Nittany Turkey says
Although I think Hack has many flaws and not being able to think quickly under pressure is a glaring one, I don’t see him following a Ryan Leaf trajectory. Part of Hack’s problem is that the lack of protection got into his head, so he’s always hearing footsteps. I don’t see his NFL stock being very high at the moment.
As for the vaunted defense, that’s why I use the irony. They have lots of flaws, and I think that even if they had been healthy all year, we would have seen outstanding performances from a couple or three individuals and pedestrian performances from the rest.
Big Al says
State actually performed better than I thought they would. I expected 10 points and 150 yards of total offense while the defense allowed more than 450 yards and 30 points. That didn’t happen, so I was happy.
Let’s face facts – State’s offense sucks whenever they play a decent defense and the defense is overrated. We are a top 40 team at best. Which means that: (1) a game against a top 20 team is a guaranteed loss; (2) a game against the 21st through 39th teams is probably a loss; and, (3) a game against the teams between 42 through 60 is a struggle and potential loss. But we can really stomp the teams below # 60 and that’s more than we could do last year.
As far as Hack goes, his body language at the end of the game suggests that he has played his last home game for Penn State. Anyhow, this has become a situation where a divorce is in the best interest of both parties. Whether he applies for the NFL draft, or gets his degree and transfers to another college is anybody’s guess. Hopefully, he doesn’t transfer to Michigan and replace Rudock or rejoin BoB at Maryland. (Although it would be great fun to watch BSD melt down if that happened.)
The Nittany Turkey says
Your second paragraph should open some eyes, but I would expect that your assessment would be pooh-poohed by the Sanguinarians. After all, when the Nits screw up, it’s someone else’s fault. The part about 42-60 being a struggle hit me hard, lemme tellya. I don’t want to believe that, but the logic seems to hold.
Now we get to see what they do against Moo U (who has everything on the line). Penn State really has nothing to play for (the difference between Nashville and Santa Clara?), and had a defeated look all over them last week. Moo U. needs this game if they want any chance at greatness this year. I see a massacre coming. One house was taking action at Moo U. – 11, but no one else seemed interested.
I’ll see what I can write about it tomorrow.