Penn State 42, Michigan 13 Comment Count

Ace October 22nd, 2017 at 12:03 AM

A matchup problem. [Patrick Barron]

Michigan has weaknesses that playoff teams lack. Tonight, those weaknesses were brutally exposed by a Penn State squad that sure looked like a playoff team themselves.

This game looked all but over in the opening five minutes. On the second play from scrimmage, future Heisman winner Saquon Barkley shifted over to quarterback, ran a read option with quarterback Trace McSorley acting as the running back, and gutted Michigan for a 69-yard touchdown. The Wolverines, on the other hand, went backwards on their opening possession, then watched as Barkley finished off a four-play, 78-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown off a speed option pitch. Michigan, again, had negative yardage on the following drive.

A miscommunication between McSorley and tight end Mike Gesicki resulted in a David Long interception that briefly gave the Wolverines new life. After marching down to the PSU three, it took four cracks for Karan Higdon to finally break the plane. Quinn Nordin, getting booed by a crowd that never forgets a slight, missed the extra point. Michigan's counterpunch brought the defense to life; Khaleke Hudson nearly picked off a screen pass in the end zone.

Also a matchup problem. [Eric Upchurch]

The teams traded punts until a flurry of action at the end of the half. First, an unlikely connection from John O'Korn to Kekoa Crawford set up a six-yard Ty Isaac touchdown to bring Michigan within a point. Then McSorley threw Penn State down the field in the blink of an eye before finishing the drive on a three-yard keeper.

While the Wolverines went into the half down only 21-13, the numbers were foreboding. PSU amassed 302 total yards in the first half, more than Michigan had allowed in a full game this season. The safeties, steady to this point, were exploited in space by Barkley and McSorley. The offense mustered only 141 yards on five fewer plays, still hampered by poor blocking and a lack of trust in the passing game.

Given all that, it probably shouldn't have surprised too many people when Penn State blew the game wide open in the second half. Issues new and old appeared on PSU's first possession of the half. Tyree Kinnel got dusted one-on-one by DaeSean Hamilton on a slant for 26 yards; Barkley dropped a big gain after easily beating Mike McCray on a wheel route; McSorley seemingly juked half the defense to find the end zone on a beautifully designed inverted veer that had Barkley motion before the snap, drawing much of the defense's attention. Just like that, PSU took a commanding 28-13 lead.

Once again, John O'Korn couldn't generate much in the passing game. [Upchurch]

From then on, it was a merciless beating. On offense, O'Korn was improved from last week's woeful outing but still only managed 5.9 yards per attempt. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed when cornerback Christian Campbell beat Karan Higdon around the edge and ripped the ball away from O'Korn. They were really dashed when Barkley toasted McCray in man coverage for a juggling 48-yard touchdown two plays later; McCray had no hope of keeping pace, yet the normally unassailable Don Brown kept allowing that matchup to play out. 

It was academic from there. McSorley added another rushing touchdown with 7:53 to play. Michigan's final possession ended in appropriately inept fashion. Facing fourth-and-nine, the coaches pulled right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beattly, who allowed consistent pressure, to insert Nolan Ulizio as an apparent pass-protection specialist. Before they could snap the ball, O'Korn took a delay of game. After the penalty, redshirt freshman backup Shaka Toney ran right around Mason Cole to sack O'Korn for the coup de gras.

Michigan can only fix so much this season. With the schedule letting up considerably over the next few week, they're likely to try some new patches, potentially including one fans have wanted for weeks. Quarterback Brandon Peters was warming up on the sideline before O'Korn ultimately took the field for M's last drive. Given how that drive played out, that was probably for the best. Now that the conference title is essentially out of reach and a top-ten defense isn't facing M's O-line, it's time to see what Peters has got. While that won't solve everything, it could be the spark this offense desperately needs.

Many of tonight's other issues will be taken care of for this year, at least, by not having to face Joe Moorhead and this Nittany Lions offense again.

They want Bama. They can have them.



October 22nd, 2017 at 12:07 AM ^

6 – 5 in the last 11 games


0 – 5 against teams over 0.500 in that time.


Michigan has now lost 15 consecutive road games to ranked opponents, going back 10 years.


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:49 AM ^

half of the blog saw the crater in talent that was the 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes and knew this would be an 8-4ish year.  This has been talked about as a rebuilding year for a long time. 

Yes, half the fanbase was (until about ttwo weeks ago) unrealistic fanboys that insisted a young, inexperienced OL would be fine because they were "Harbaugh guys" and we would still win 10 games this year and how could we lose to PSU after beating them last year so badly and I'm just going to ignore all the data points since then...

...but that was only half the blog.


October 22nd, 2017 at 2:29 AM ^

that the loss to MSU was a massive failure, rebuilding year or not.  It was as disappointing as the Florida game was encouraging.  Unfortunate that we'd happily switch those two results.

So the point remains that the realistic portion of the blog knew this was going to be a rebuilding year and that, all things considered (injuries to Newsome and Speight and Black) this isn't worse than we expected at this point, record-wise, hence it's not really an underacheivement.


October 22nd, 2017 at 5:28 PM ^

we're getting worse because we're starting our backup QB and lost arguably our best WR.  Not many teams lose their starting QB and get better.  I would argue that the run blocking is on an upward trajectory, so there's progress there.

On defense, there's a couple things at play:

1) We just played a really good team that had a near perfect game. So yeah, the defense got torched but just because we ran into a buzzsaw last night isn't troubling in and of itself. Those throws and high pointed balls were perfect execution and mostly well defended but nothing our 5'10 DBs could do.  The success they had running was a lot more troubling, but I think that was largely due to:

2) We started out better than we actually are because of great coaching.  We surprised Florida with a 3-3-5, and had a Furbush and Bush game going that generated a ton of pressure and hid our lack of depth on the DL and hid our inexperience at safety.  Teams figured it out (starting with MSU) and have had more success against us, really exploiting our young safeties. I don't think we were ever a top 3 defense, which is understandable given the losses, and now we're seeing what is still a good defense but a little more in line with reasonable expectations.  I do think the coaches will have a counter and we'll see improvement the rest of the way.


October 22nd, 2017 at 2:30 AM ^

Oh yes. 



When we have to play in South Bend against a seemingly very strong Notre Dame team, in East Lansing against a team/coach that mentally owns us and in Columbus, a place we haven't won since 2000, against a team with insanely elite talent that will be older than us still. 

Not to mention against Wisconsin and Penn State teams that will almost certainly have higher preseason rankings than us. 


The year already happened. It was 2016 and we blew it. 


I Like Burgers

October 22nd, 2017 at 9:53 AM ^

That's been the biggest change for me this season. I was one of the people that thought this would be a 9-3 or 8-4 type season, but 2018 would have a run at the Big Ten championship and the playoff.

But now?

I have trouble seeing how this team is going to be able to improve much beyond the 10-win type team they were the last two seasons.  The defense will improve, but only incrementally from the top 10-ish defense they are now to a top-5ish level defense like they were last season.

The offense will also improve, but I think there can only be so many gains there. This version of the offense is somewhere around 80-100, expecting that to improve to a top 20 level outfit that you'll need to compete for the playoff is a stretch.

And then not only that, they have games at Notre Dame, Northwestern, MSU, and Ohio State.  All four of those teams will be better versions of this season's teams, and all four should/could be ranked and Michigan hasn't been able to beat a ranked team on the road in over a decade. Expecting them to suddenly figure out how to win tough games on the road is a bit of fantasy.

2018 could easily be another 9-3 type season.


October 22nd, 2017 at 9:53 AM ^

Exactly thank you. Most experts agreed this year would be a down year right after Harbaugh was hired. Only unrealistic fans put out expectations of an undefeated season this year. Michigan lost a ton of experience and they don't run a youth friendly system like OSU.


October 22nd, 2017 at 5:18 PM ^

Last Michigan game I attended Iowa beat Michigan. 1990. I was disgusted but the other Michigan fans in my seating section, all Alums, cheered the effort put out by both teams. It made me even more disgusted.

Michigan is stale.Harbaugh has too much on his plate right now with a new baby,a handicapped 6yr old, and another older son coming out recently as gay. He is only human. 

The benefits of this loss to Pen St. eases expectations and the guy that Michigan didn't want as Qb coach, head coach, clashed with Ditka, trump, traded to Indy Colts  and emerged as a AFC Offensive Player of Year, Coach of Year NCAA-NFL in back to back seasons will be back.

Cheer the effort.


October 22nd, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

Whatever I write on here has no bearing on how M plays. You seem to be the kind of person who thinks if you cheer hard enough and loud enough, they'll play awesome.

Generalities are never a good thing. You used a few. I just used one to describe you.

I played a sport professionally. So, although that is irrelevant, I thought I'd correct that generality.

Now you can ad hominem me more accurately. 

Kevin Holtsberry

October 22nd, 2017 at 12:30 AM ^

"Michigan has now lost 15 consecutive road games to ranked opponents, going back 10 years."

I just want one big upset or unexpected rivarly win.  As Ace and Brian noted in the podcast this week, it just never seems to go our way against Ohio State or Michigan State (or Iowa, etc.).  I know things can change quickly in collefge football but it feels like Michigan does get enough of the big upsets to offset the painful loses. I would trade a couple of losses to Indiana for a big road win against a ranked opponent (preferably Ohio State).

I think the fire everyone crowd is ridiculous but there hasn't been much to hang your hat on for UM other than the big bowl win against Florida.  Being patient would be easier if we could beat Ohio State at home this year.


October 22nd, 2017 at 2:32 AM ^

refs havent been great and theyve surely screwed m more than once - but a team must play well enough, smart enough, etc to make the refs almost irrelevant, especially on the road (as all disciplined teams tend to get a little homecooking).  good teams typically make sure the refs cant swing a game....unfortunately m isnt there yet.

the O in general has been weak as has the coaching at times but clearly QB remains the #1 issue.  okorn has been running a vanilla, almost high school O, and hes been running it inefficiently, with questionable technique and with limited confidence (not to mention limited help around him - but thats secondary to QB problems).

ill leave it at that re the QB situation and the O scheme in general (ive always been more of a spread to run fan -and these type seasons with college kids struggling to execute timing-based, multiple pro style passing O like michigan reinforces that preference).

some good things but not nearly enough, obviously.  at least this young team knows how it feels to play big games and get smoked, and im sure in future years theyll do all they can to make sure they on the other side of beatdown


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:08 AM ^

They wanted to take it to Michigan and it showed...all game. Even their backups ran it down the D.

PSU is much better than I thought and Michigan is much worse than I thought.

Harbaugh is now 6-5 in his last 11 games. Apparently he told the team the "fake love is gone. Nobody is on the bandwagon. It's just us."


October 22nd, 2017 at 12:55 AM ^

Are we reading the same blog? A vast majority of the fan base is turning on the staff/ offense/ apparently now the defense. Everyone excited about the HARBAUGH brand are abandoning it because we haven't won a national championship in year 3 of this program-wide rebuild.

This fan base isn't being supportive of the football coaches or the players and if you think that's not negatively impacting the team, I don't know what to tell you.


October 22nd, 2017 at 1:17 AM ^

We haven’t won a National Championship? We haven’t finished higher than 3rd in our own division. If you are ok with that, than you haven’t played a competitive sport since elementary school. We got beat by 29 points by James Franklin. Tell your self 2018 or 2019 is the year if it makes you feel better I guess. It’s not and it won’t be because all evidence says so.


October 22nd, 2017 at 1:47 AM ^

What I think, I'm just some alum sitting on a couch with his family. It doesnt matter what I did or did not accomplish during my athletic career either.

My point is that you being a whiny little bitch on the internet isn't doing a damn thing to help this football program.