BRING ON OHIO STATE: No. 2 Nittany Lions annihilate rival Michigan Wolverines, 42-13
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State put a beatdown on Michigan the likes of which few people could have expected, but then again, the unexpected should now be the norm for Beaver Stadium whiteout games.
The No. 4 Nittany Lions destroyed No. 19 Michigan’s vaunted defense in a 42-13 blowout Saturday night before the largest crowd ever at Beaver Stadium, 110,823.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and the environment was unreal. … It was special, it really was,” PSU coach James Franklin said.
Saquon Barkley scored a 69-yard TD on the second play from scrimmage on a wildcat play, and he re-emerged as the Heisman Trophy favorite with three touchdowns.
Trace McSorley overcame a rocky first half with a stellar second half, as the quarterback made one big play after another with his arm and his legs.
And offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead had an exceptional night calling plays, helping PSU to a quick 14-0 lead with a couple of early gems and also having McSorley throw deep for some pivotal plays as the Lions ran away in the second half.
Not to be outdone, Penn State’s defense was in control all night, pitched a shutout in the second half and continues to be one of the best units in the country. Even if people aren’t necessarily talking about it that way.
Michigan came in leading the nation in total defense, giving up just 223.8 yards per game. And even though PSU led the country in scoring defense (9.0 points per game), the Lions noticed that they were getting talked about as much as the Wolverines.
“It definitely played a factor in how we played with a chip on our shoulder, without a doubt,” PSU linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “Everyone was talking about their defense, their defense, their defense, so we had to come out and make a statement. I think we did today.”
Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, Michigan (5-2, 2-2) answered with 13 points to get back in it, then the Lions scored a big TD right before halftime that jumpstarted them to scoring the game’s final 28 points.
The loss equaled the worst for Michigan during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure, matching a 42-13 drubbing against Ohio State in 2015. The Wolverines had lost their last four games going back to last season by a total of just nine points, yet got taken to the woodshed by Penn State, which got revenge for last season’s 49-10 loss at Michigan.
“That’s a defense that hasn’t given up any yards and any points to really anybody,” Franklin said.
But Michigan couldn’t stop Penn State, which piled up 506 yards — 282 through the air and 224 on the ground.
The most points the Wolverines had allowed in a game all season was just 17. Penn State had more than that (21) in the first half alone, including 14 in the first five minutes.
One huge difference between the two teams and two programs was evident in the opening minutes.
Moorhead, a heralded and dynamic playcaller, dialed up the perfect call on the second play of the game when he had Barkley take a direct snap. The goal was to get the running back matched up one on one against a linebacker, and when that happened, Michigan was caught by surprise and had no chance.
Barkley started right, cut back two steps to his left and then burst through the middle untouched on his way to a 69-yard score.
“Watching film we felt like a lot of other running backs were able to get open, but none were able to finish it or find a way to get in the end zone on a big run,” Barkley said. “That’s something that I took ownership for this week.”
A big part of the wildcat TD play was disguising it.
“We didn’t show it,” Franklin said. “So instead of lining up and putting the quarterback out wide, we were able to shift to it at the last minute so they couldn’t go to the wildcat check.”
After that score, Michigan ran the ball twice right into the line and gained just 3 yards. The Wolverines are not a dynamic offense and have a quarterback in John O’Korn who has been struggling, yet their coaches immediately put him in a tough spot on a third-and-7 play.
O’Korn was sacked by Curtis Cothran, giving the ball back to PSU.
On their next series, Moorhead again showed his playcalling chops by having McSorley keep it on the second play, which went for a 23-yard gain. On the next play, the quarterback threw deep down the left sideline, and tight end Mike Gesicki came down with a 35-yard grab at the Michigan 15.
The next play saw McSorley roll right and pitch to Barkley, who had a lot of running room for a 15-yard TD.
Just like that, with Michigan’s weaker offense having run just three plays, the Wolverines already found themselves trailing 14-0. It should be noted, as well, that PSU won the opening toss and elected to take the ball first, giving the offense a chance to score and put Michigan in a quick hole.
Despite the fast start, Michigan got its running game going a bit, and O’Korn made some big plays with his legs and arm to score a couple of touchdowns in the second quarter. The Wolverines missed the PAT on their first score, and their second TD made it 14-13 with 1:45 left in the half.
McSorley endured a tough half, missing several open throws. He also threw a costly interception when PSU looked like it was about to score again for a 21-0 lead.
But McSorley and the offense closed the half in style, taking back control of the game with a 75-yard TD drive in just 52 seconds.
McSorley hit DaeSean Hamilton, who made a great catch while being covered, for a 36-yard gain to 27, then the quarterback found Mike Gesicki for 17 yards to the 3. McSorley scored on the next play for a 21-13 lead at the half.
“I think that was huge,” McSorley said of the TD. “For us to get that touchdown right before halftime — at that point they had scored 13 unanswered and were kind of coming back — they were able to gain a little bit of momentum, and we were able to get the momentum right back.”
There were no momentum shifts in the second half as Penn State dominated, stopping Michigan on its first possession and then driving 80 yards for a TD and 28-13 lead. McSorley finished it off with a nifty 13-yard run, juking around defenders.
“He ran the ball well, he threw the ball well,” Franklin said of his quarterback.
At that point, the rout was on.
With McSorley locked in and throwing deep balls, Barkley involved on the ground and through the air, and the defense having its way, Penn State was never threatened in the second half.
McSorley finished 17-of-26 for 282 yards, one TD and one interception, and he ran for 76 yards on 11 carries.
Barkley ran for 108 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 53 yards, including a 42-yard TD late in which he juggled the ball in the air a couple of times before pulling it in.
Franklin pointed out after the game that the win meant much more to Penn State than just what happened on the field.
“I also want to thank ESPN for coming and bringing “GameDay,” the coach said. “It gave us an opportunity to showcase not just Penn State football, but our university. … This was a win for our university.”
Penn State 7, Michigan 0: Saquon Barkley took a direct snap of the second play from scrimmage, went to his right, cut back a step to his left and raced untouched up the middle for a 69-yard TD with 14:17 left in the first.
Penn State 14, Michigan 0: Trace McSorley kept for 23 yards on the second play of PSU’s next drive, then threw a 35-yard pass that tight end Mike Gesicki caught in traffic at the Michigan 15. On the next play, McSorley rolled right and pitched to Barkley, who had a clear path to the end zone for a 15-yard score with 10:11 to go in the quarter.
Penn State 14, Michigan 6: The Wolverines killed a PSU drive by intercepting McSorley and returning it to the 41. Staying primarily on the ground, Michigan and moved the ball down the field. It had first-and-goal at the 3 but got stuffed three times, then on fourth down, Karan Higdon scored on a sweep from a yard out with 12:53 left in the half. Quinn Nordin missed the
Penn State 14, Michigan 13: John O’Korn scrambled for 14 yards to start a drive and made some big throws to move the Wolverines. He stood in the pocket and, just before getting crushed by blitzing linebacker Jason Cabinda, delivered a 23-yard strike to O’Maury Samuels to the PSU 6. Ty Isaac scored from 6 yards two plays later with 1:45 to go in the half.
Penn State 21, Michigan 13: The Lions drove 75 yards in seven plays, taking up just 52 seconds, for a big TD late in the half. McSorley tossed a perfect pass deep right that DaeSean Hamilton made a superb catch on for a 36-yard gain to the Michigan 27. Barkley went for 9 yards on the next play, and McSorley hit Mike Gesicki 17 yards to the 3. McSorley kept it on the next play and score from 3 yards with 53 seconds left in the half.
Penn State 28, Michigan 13: McSorley hit some big throws on PSU’s first drive of the second half, including a 26-yard gain to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley also had a 13-yard run on the drive and finished it with a 13-yard keeper in which he juked his way past a couple of defenders on his way to the end zone with 5:13 left in the third.
Penn State 35, Michigan 13: Christian Campbell stripped O’Korn for a fumble, and Robert Windsor recovered for PSU at the Michigan 46. On the second play, McSorley found Barkley deep down the right side, and after juggling the ball twice, Barkley pulled it in for a 42-yard TD with 13:11 left to play.
Penn State 42, Michigan 13: McSorley finished off the scoring with a 9-yard TD run up the middle through traffic with 7:53 left to play.