“Big boy football” favors Michigan in 41-17 win over Penn State
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In its first five games of the 2022 campaign, Penn State faced little trouble stopping the run, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday against Michigan.
The Wolverines pounded the Nittany Lions 41-17, and they were guided by a potent rushing attack that tallied 418 yards.
Those 418 rushing yards are the most the blue and white has surrendered since 1997, and it was the third most allowed in program history.
Michigan’s offense is built upon pounding the rock, and Blake Corum is one of the best running backs in the nation, but he didn’t lead the team in rushing in the top-10 battle.
Sophomore Donovan Edwards led the way with 173 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries.
What makes this performance more impressive is he nearly matched his last season's rushing total, as he had 174 yards in 2021.
Edwards wasn’t the only back who shredded the Nittany Lions, as Corum racked up 166 yards while finding the endzone twice.
Heading into the top-10 battle, Penn State ranked fifth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game and had only allowed three rushing touchdowns in the five games.
“There were way too many times the guy was just running through holes into the second level,” James Franklin said. “I’m obviously not happy with that number at all. Not one bit.”
Leading up to the game, Franklin talked about the extra preparation his team did during the bye week, which was different than in years past.
Despite the extra preparation, the result remained the same for Penn State as Franklin’s record moved to 3-6 coming off the bye week.
Flashing back to last season, the blue and white entered its bye week 5-1 after suffering a heartbreaking 23-20 loss against Iowa.
In Penn State’s first game out of the off week, it lost to Illinois 20-18 in nine overtimes, and the story in that game was similar to Saturday’s.
Both games saw the Nittany Lions get destroyed on the ground as the Fighting Illini ran for 357 yards, marking two consecutive seasons where they have allowed over 350 rushing yards coming out of the bye week.
The Wolverines carved out five runs of 20+ yards, including touchdown runs from 67 and 61 yards, while also having seven other runs of 10 or more yards.
Penn State's defense was only on the field for the majority of the first half, with the offense only being able to tally one first down.
“The amount of plays definitely makes it tougher, but we have to be built for it,” PJ Mustipher said. “Regardless of what they do, how many plays they run, you have to go out there and do your job. If we didn’t want them to run that amount of plays, we should’ve got stops, and we didn’t.”
The Nittany Lions’ lack of a stout defense comes as a surprise since they didn’t play last week and had an extra week to prepare specifically for Michigan.
After the game, Franklin mentioned he was very surprised his team didn’t put forth a better effort.
“I’m surprised that we didn’t play well,” Franklin said. “When you’re not able to control the line of scrimmage the way you need to control the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have a hard time winning games.”
Despite the loss, Saturday’s contest acted as a learning experience for several freshmen who play key roles on the defense.
Abdul Carter, Dani Dennis-Sutton and Zane Durant have all seen considerable playing time to open their collegiate careers.
Safety Ji’Ayir Brown wants the younger players to continue to move forward and not get discouraged by the result.
“A lot of younger guys, especially in big games like this, take it to heart,” Brown said. “I just give them a shake back from it. Most guys are easier than others, but my goal is to make sure the whole team bounces back from this.”
Penn State's defensive line is in for a second straight tough test as it faces Minnesota next week, another run-dependent team.
Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim has gotten off to a great start this campaign, rushing for 694 yards, and his usage will only increase after quarterback Tanner Morgan was carted off the field in Saturday’s game against Illinois.
“It’s definitely a wake-up call for us,” Brown said. “Michigan came out, and they did a great job at running the ball, doing what they do very well. We got to be better.”
Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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