Michigan keeps Big Ten title, College Football Playoff hopes alive with dramatic win over Penn State

·4-min read

It wasn’t always pretty, but Michigan got the job done.

On a blustery day at Beaver Stadium, the sixth-ranked Wolverines battled through a slow start, overcame a fourth-quarter comeback from Penn State and came away with a dramatic 21-17 victory.

It was a battle between two stellar defenses, but one of the offenses needed to put together a game-winning drive in the end. On this day, it was Michigan.

Michigan led 14-6 for much of the second half, but Penn State tied the game at 14-14 with 7:35 to play and then, following a strip sack, took a 17-14 lead with 5:55 remaining.

All of a sudden, a game Michigan seemed to be firmly in control of what was slipping through its hands. The Wolverines have lost so many big games during the Jim Harbaugh era, but this time Harbaugh’s team responded with poise.

On the ensuing drive, Cade McNamara calmly found tight end Erick All on a crossing route and he took off through the Penn State defense for a 47-yard touchdown.

The connection between McNamara and All gave Michigan a 21-17 lead with 3:29 to play. It was All's first career touchdown and it proved to be the winning score. 

Penn State turned it over on downs on its next possession, giving the ball back to Michigan. From there, the Wolverines ran out the rest of the clock and escaped State College with a pivotal victory.

With the win, Michigan improved to 9-1 and kept both its Big Ten and College Football Playoff hopes alive. The Wolverines have a trip to Maryland on deck for next week, but the visit from Ohio State on Nov. 27 obviously looms large.

If both Michigan and OSU come into that game at 10-1, the winner will win the Big Ten East and head to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis with a berth in the College Football Playoff likely on the line.

Will this finally be the year for Harbaugh and the Wolverines?

Penn State doomed by fake FG

Penn State controlled play early in the game, but a curious play-call changed the trajectory of the game.

The Nittany Lions marched into Michigan territory on their first drive, a drive that was kept alive by a successful fake punt. The drive resulted in a 42-yard Jordan Stout field goal, giving PSU a 3-0 lead.

It looked like that lead was about to grow larger. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Penn State again drove deep into Michigan territory. Eventually, though, PSU was faced with a fourth-and-goal decision from the Michigan 2-yard line.

Instead of keeping the offense out there for a chance to go up 10-0, James Franklin sent his field goal unit onto the field. PSU then tried to run a fake field goal. It failed spectacularly. Stout received a quick pass and was quickly hit and fumbled, giving the ball back to Michigan.

Michigan pass rush dominated, Haskins carried heavy load

Penn State’s offensive line struggled mightily with the Michigan pass rush as defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo teed off on PSU’s overmatched tackles. Hutchinson and Ojabo combined for five of Michigan’s seven sacks on the day.

Despite taking an abundance of hits, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford kept battling.

Michigan took a 7-6 lead into halftime and then scored again to open the second half. Michigan held that 14-6 lead for much of the second half, until Clifford and the Nittany Lions put together a long scoring drive to eventually tie the game at 14-14 with 7:35 remaining.

And on the ensuing Michigan drive, Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie came crashing off the edge and forced a fumble. That set up a field goal that gave PSU a 17-14 lead with 5:55 to play.

But Michigan didn’t wilt, and was able to retake the lead and get out of Beaver Stadium with a win.

While the McNamara-to-All connection won the game, Hassan Haskins was the best player on Michigan's offense. Playing without his usual backfield mate Blake Corum, Haskins got a massive workload. He carried the ball 31 times for 156 yards and picked up the pivotal first downs in the game's final minutes to officially put the Nittany Lions away. 

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