Michigan Stomps Penn State in Conference Opener
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Without three starting linebackers at kickoff, the Penn State Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) were soundly beaten in all facets of the game by No. 4 Michigan (4-0, 1-0). The Wolverines hung 515 yards of offense on the Nittany Lions en route to a 49-10 victory, the most lopsided result in the history of this series.
Michigan wasted no time taking control of the game, scoring touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions to open up a 21-0 lead. In an additional blow to the Penn State linebacker corps, Brandon Smith was ejected for targeting on a controversial call late in the third touchdown drive. The play was reviewed but the officials upheld the ruling.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been through anything like this or seen anything like this,” said head coach James Franklin in reference to the losses at linebacker. “Brandon Smith gets thrown out for targeting and that’s the rule. I don’t know what to tell the kid, he was going for the ball.”
Smith’s replacement Jan Johnson suffered a lower body injury later in the first half. He will miss the remainder of the season.
Michigan added a fourth touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half; the biggest play of the drive was a fourth-and-7 conversion from well inside field goal range to put the Wolverines in the red zone.
The Nittany Lions finished with -16 net yards of offense in the first half.
The second half started significantly better for the Blue and White, as they forced a Michigan punt and drove all the way downfield thanks to multiple runs of 20-plus yards from Saquon Barkley. However, the Nittany Lions were forced to settle for a field goal after two tough drops in the end zone.
Franklin called a timeout on fourth-and-goal from two yards out before bringing the field goal unit back out anyway to put up Penn State’s first points.
“That was not a good decision on my part,” said Franklin. “We second-guessed ourselves there. We thought maybe we should go for a touchdown, but we still had a lot of time left in the game. We had a discussion and everybody felt we should take the points with that much time left in the half.”
Michigan responded by putting three straight touchdown drives together at the end of the third and into the fourth quarter. These drives essentially salted the game away as the Penn State defense was visibly tired after having spent almost 36 minutes on the field.
The Nittany Lions were able to pull out a consolation touchdown in the fourth quarter on an 8-yard reception by Chris Godwin. It was Godwin’s lone catch of the afternoon and one of only 16 completions for Trace McSorley.
Penn State finished with only 199 total yards, being severely outgained on the ground 326-78. Saquon Barkley had 136 of those yards on 15 carries and five receptions.
The Nittany Lions return home next weekend to play Minnesota in the first of three consecutive home games. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.