Penn State Falls in Nail Biter to No. 6 Michigan

Story posted November 13, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s stellar special teams coupled with receiver Parker Washington’s 92 receiving yards weren’t enough as the Nittany Lions fell to Michigan 21-17 as snow flurries filled the Helmet-Stripe game Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

The blue and white’s one standout was punter and kicker Jordan Stout, who averaged 51 yards on four punts and nailed two field goals over 40 yards. He also threw an 18-yard pass on a fake punt attempt in the first quarter to lead to his first-made kick.

But his mishap also turned the tide of the game when his rushing attempt on a fake field goal at Michigan’s two-yard line went awry.

In a 3-0 Penn State game, Stout lost 18 yards on the fourth-down play and fumbled the ball on a hit by Wolverine Vincent Gray as Daxton Hill returned it for nine yards.

Michigan took a timeout before the Nittany Lions ran the play, and Stout mentioned that his team was not planning to run a fake before the timeout.

“We felt like we had the look we wanted, but it’s all about details,” James Franklin said. “The margin of error is really small, … [but] I’d make the call again. … We’ve got to find ways to execute, and we’ve got to do a better job at coaching.”

Penn State got the ball first, and its first drive stayed alive after a fake punt and a 27-yard completion from Jordan Stout to Curtis Jacobs for a first down at Michigan’s 25-yard line. Stout ended the drive with a 42-yard boot to put his squad on the board first.

Michigan then had its first series as the offense walked out to the song “Mo Bamba” with a roaring crowd — just like it did two years ago in Beaver Stadium when head coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to take a timeout before the team’s first play.

This time, Michigan was disrupted before it could take a snap once again, this time causing a false start penalty on offensive lineman Andrew Stueber. The Wolverines punted after a three-and-out.

The Nittany Lions were then unable to cash in as they got all the way to the two-yard line on a 48-yard drive. Facing fourth down and goal, Franklin tried the Stout trick play that was unsuccessful.

Two drives later, with three minutes played in the second quarter, Michigan converted successfully on a fourth-down-and-two when senior halfback Hassan Haskins sprinted up the gut to Penn State’s 45-yard line.

The Wolverines then put their first points on the board on a 21-yard bullet from junior quarterback Cade McNamara to sophomore receiver Roman Wilson in the back of the endzone.

The 7:30 series left the blue and white with the ball down 7-3 with six minutes left before the break. Stout kicked another field goal to make it a 7-6 game at halftime.

Michigan answered on its first drive of the second half when McNamara found Wilson again to give his team a 14-6 cushion after a three-minute, 75-yard series.

With 7:35 to go in the game, the Nittany Lions finally got in the red zone and end zone on 4th and goal when quarterback Sean Clifford threw to tight end Tyler Warren for a touchdown. Clifford then tied up the score on a two-point conversion pass to his main man Jahan Dotson.

On Michigan’s next drive, McNamara was strip-sacked by Arnold Ebiketie and fellow defensive lineman Derrick Tangelo picked up the ball and was taken down on Michigan’s 16-yard line.

But the blue and white were unable to capitalize and get into the end zone as a three-and-out set up Stout for a 31-yard kick as Penn State retook the lead at 17-14. Clifford had Dotson at the 2-yard-line on 2nd down, but the two couldn’t connect.

“You take Jahan Dotson out, [and] we’re not making enough big plays,” Franklin said. “It’s something we’re going to have to look at.”

The Wolverines answered once again with another touchdown pass. With 3:29 left, McNamara dished to a wide-open tight end Erick All on a slant route for a 47-yard touchdown pass and 21-17 score as the Nittany Lion defense had no one back on the right side of the field.

Clifford and company got the ball back one more time, but were unable to convert on fourth down at their own 34 after a fade pass flew over Cam Sullivan-Brown’s head.

Franklin had three timeouts in his pocket, but McNamara got one first down on a quarterback sneak and Haskins got another on the ground to seal the deal.

The Nittany Lions had 109 yards on the ground, which makes it just the fourth time Penn State has ran for over 100 yards this season. Junior running back Noah Cain, who started every game this season before Saturday, did not see the field, but players said postgame that it was not due to injury.

Penn State has now lost four out of its last five games as a promising start to the Nittany Lions’ season has completely turned on its head.

Next week will be the final game this year at Beaver Stadium when the blue and white welcome Rutgers to town. Penn State will then head to East Lansing to face No. 7 Michigan State to close out the regular season.


Jack McCune is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jxm1237@psu.edu.