1st Quarter Notes:
-Penn State is really looking to establish the run coming out of the bye week. Belton looks sharp breaking some long runs early, this is a step in the right direction for the young offensive line.
-I HATE the wildcat formation. You’ve got one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. He’s your team’s best player. Why the heck wouldn’t you put the ball in his hands to start every play?
-Penn State takes a 3-0 lead with the 35 yard field goal by Ficken.
-Michigan looks to get Gardner some throws early in the half, and he’s helped on a high throw by Darboh, who makes a fantastic catch for the first down.
-Three plays later, a beautiful throw and catch to Funchess for the touchdown on a lapse in coverage by Penn State. 6-3 Michigan, extra point makes it 7-3.
-What’s this? A balanced run/pass offense from Penn State? Franklin’s squad looks much more confident in the run game today, and Hackenberg continues finding ways to make plays as he moves around in the pocket and escapes a tackle before completing for the 1st down.
-After coming up short, it looks like Penn State is going to go for it on 4th down, only to have the field goal unit start onto the field. Coach Franklin goes ballistic and immediately gets into the face of his offensive coordinator. Seems like there was a serious miscommunication there, maybe they wanted to run a quick 4th down conversion play and the coordinator sent out the field goal team instead, or vice versa. Either way, Ficken makes the field goal and Penn State makes it a one point game, 7-6 Michigan.
2nd Quarter Notes:
-Anthony Zettel makes a great interception to give the Nittany Lions the ball back, and Hackenberg makes them pay. Two completions to DaeSean Hamilton, and Penn State has the touchdown. 13-7, Penn State.
-Don’t look now, but Darboh has 66 yards already on four catches. The latest was an impressive catch, which I’m not sure how he pulled off. Great coverage, better catch.
-Michigan keeps their drive alive, but can’t get the TD. A nice 45-yard field goal by Wile makes it 13-10, Penn State.
-A lot of people forget that although Hackenberg is a big, pocket-passing quarterback, he’s got the wheels to escape the pocket when he needs too. Of course he get sacked as I write that, but it’s still true. He may not have the athleticism of an Andrew Luck, but he’s not a slow QB a la Anthony Morelli either (thank God). I’m tempted to make the comparison to Ben Roethlesberger because of the pocket mobility, big arm, and difficulty in being tackled.
-Four and out by Michigan, capped by a sack by Deion Barnes. You may remember that in the NU debacle, Barnes also had some nice plays.
-A nice throw by Hack and catch by Lewis is ruled short of the first down, but Hoke calls a timeout with 00:03 left on the clock. Penn State goes for the Hail Mary, but Hackenberg is sacked waiting for someone to get open. End of the first half.
3rd Quarter Notes:
-Michigan starts with the ball this half. It’s a rough first possession, as Devin Gardner passes incomplete, runs for a short gain, then gets sacked by Mike Hull, who is having a great game today.
-This Penn State offensive line looks like an actual collegiate unit today. Bill Belton has some holes to run through, something he hasn’t exactly had the chance to get accustomed to this season.
-Hackenberg passes incomplete to Lewis, and the refs mistaken call a Pick 6. This one goes to review, and they get it right the second time around.
-Side note: I hate the Subway commercial with RG3 and Justin Tuck. I hate everything about that commercial, and I hate that those to players can even sit in the same restaurant together without fighting. You wouldn’t see Brian Dawkins doing commercials with Eli Manning, and Dawk is a hell of a nice guy (off the field). It’s disgusting.
-Nice completion to Kyle Carter, who really burst onto the scene as a freshman. He’s a fast TE with playmaking ability, although he does have some streaks of drops.
-The ESPN commentator just said that Hoke is bringing the pressure because Hackenberg is an immobile quarterback. Typical lazy reporting by ESPN. Guys: Not every white QB is a “slow-footed pocket passer” and not every black QB is a “Dual-threat.” And while we’re at it, not every white running back needs to be called a “Bruising throwback who reminds us of the old Big Ten tailbacks.” Let’s watch the sport and give players credit for the type of game they play, okay?
-Hackenberg makes a stupid decision trying to avoid the sack, and instead throws an interception. Bellomy takes over for Michigan, as Gardner is sidelined and Morris is apparently not able to play either.
-Anthony Zettel is having a great game, and he bats down a pass. Zettel probably doesn’t have the size to make it at the next level, but he sure is fun to watch in college. If the NFL isn’t in his future, he plans to enter the world of MMA, where his nasty edge and high motor should definitely help him out.
-As Penn State punts with 1:45 left in the third quarter, score tied at 13, the ESPN announcer declares that this game is “becoming a defensive struggle.” Becoming?
-Mike Hull misses out on an interception, but he knocks down Bellomy’s pass. It looked like he almost swatted it down in self-defense, as Bellomy didn’t seem to see Hull in the direct line of his pass. Funchess is injured on the play.
4th Quarter notes:
-This game has gotten pretty boring to watch as both offenses are struggling to make plays. Gardner re-enters the game for Michigan, which is great news for the watchability of this game.
-Gardner takes a hit but delivers a strike to his receiver for the first down. You’ve got to respect that kind of play. Also, it’s BS that the announcers are calling the hit on Gardner a foul. The defender was clearly trying to get his hands up to block the pass. I don’t want to make a stereotypical “Let’s just put flags/skirts on the QBs” argument, but seriously, if it’s a foul to have your forearm incidentally strike the helmet of a quarterback, I don’t want to watch the sport anymore.
-Michigan gets a field goal for the lead (16-13), but Gardner is taking some serious hits and it is painfully obvious (pun intended) that his ankle is still hurting a lot. Following the Shane Morris concussion debacle, I’m not sure how great it looks for U of M to put another injured player back into the game to get slaughtered. Devin Gardner is a former WR and a very athletic QB, but he is completely unable to escape pressure right now.
-Penn State is looking to get into a rhythm on offense, and Hackenberg does his part with a gritty 2 yard sneak for the first down.
-Things go downhill from there, as the PSU offensive line is really struggling in pass protection. The Lions punt with ~7 minutes remaining, down 13-16.
-This is becoming a hard game to watch. Gardner is clearly injured, and Penn State’s line is falling apart. This isn’t so much a defensive struggle as it is two anemic offenses trying to scrape together enough points to win.
-Nice completion to the freshman Chris Godwin for a first down, but that’s the last good thing to happen on this drive. Hackenberg is sacked at the 2 yard line, and he’s lucky it wasn’t called for a safety. This is getting ugly.
-Wow. Penn State intentionally takes a safety, then tries an onside kick. They manage to recover, only to have the recovery cancelled by an offsides call. They are not able to recover the second time, and now they are really in a bind, down 18-13 with 1:37 left and Michigan in scoring position. Yikes.
-This game finishes with a whimper as Michigan runs out the clock with running plays before kneeling to end the game.
Game Recaps and Observations:
This was an important game for Michigan, and they managed to pull out the win in a slow, sloppy Big Ten matchup. Although both teams have quarterbacks who know how to sling the ball, this game devolved into a matchup of defenses as neither offense was ever able to really get into a consistent rhythm. Penn State fell to 4-2, but it’s hard to really say that there was a winner in this game, as Michigan now has two injured quarterbacks and really struggled to score points against a Penn State team that is seriously lacking in depth at several positions.
There were a few bright spots for Penn State- Mike Hull continues to put up good defensive stats while playing solid football overall, and Bill Belton finally started to find a little bit of daylight coming out of the backfield. Anthony Zettel continues to dominate, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Penn State has been putting a lot of DTs into the NFL lately with monster senior campaigns. Zettel is undersized, but he could be the next to go pro if he continues to bulk up. He is listed at 6-4, but that seems a bit generous. He could be best suited as a 4-3 defensive end at the next level, but at less than 280 pounds he is a bit small even for that.
Deion Barnes is putting together a nice season as a redshirt Junior as well. At 6-4, 255, it’s hard to project whether he would be best suited as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB at the next level, but he’s got the athleticism to make plays. So far, he is on pace to nearly double last year’s 27 total tackles, and he’s already got 3 sacks compared to just 2 last season and 6 during his breakout Freshman campaign. If Barnes stays for a fifth year at Penn State, look for him to really shine with a second year in Bob Shoop’s defensive scheme.
Michigan is lucky to be heading into a bye week, with Devin Gardner limping badly to end the game. You’ve got to respect the toughness of the kid, who said “I can hurt later” about his reentry to the game, but this doesn’t seem like the greatest move for a team that is already taking so much flak for putting a clearly concussed Shane Morris back into the game against Minnesota the last weekend of September. Gardner was a sitting duck behind center, barely even able to hobble far enough to hand the football to his running back. He took a couple serious shots as a result, and it just seemed like a dangerous move in general to put him back on the field in such a hapless state.
Altogether, Saturday’s game was a sloppy contest between two teams still searching for their offensive identities. Michigan goes into the bye week hoping that this will be the turning point for their season, and Penn State goes back to the drawing board after failing to correct their offensive woes during their own bye week. Top priority for this Lions squad has to be finding a way to keep Hackenberg upright and bring some life to the running game. If that means bringing in TEs as additional blockers, so be it. This young offensive line needs some help. Bring in those TEs, get the running game open, and give Hackenberg a chance to find Hamilton and Lewis downfield.