Penn State 43, Michigan 40: Ugh

Justin K. Aller

Well, we all saw that one coming. A few quick thoughts about Michigan's overtime loss to Penn State

Now that that's over with, let's talk about the game. MIchigan scored 40 but couldn't quite find the endzone in four chances in overtime, and Penn State was rewarded for Bill O'Brien's aggressive playcalling with a solid win against a marquee (sorta) program. Michigan shot itself in the foot several times, with three turnovers in the first half and questionable playcalling at the end of the game obscuring a tremendous effort in the second half.

I'm not quite sure how to sort out this loss. Part of the joy of winning is that you can lose - but you overcome that and don't. Today, Michigan could win, and they didn't, which makes this one of the most painful ways to lose. Penn State gifted Michigan numerous chances, even after Michigan seemed to coach Penn State back into the game - including a game-winning FG opportunity shorted by Gibbons, a missed FG in overtime, a fumble recovered by Frank Clark in OT, and numerous drops throughout the game.

All credit to Penn State for eking out a win with 61 scholarship players. Hackenburg looked like the real deal for most of the night, and they were able to effectively run the ball. And you can't discount how Bill O'Brien put them in a position to win.

I said it before - Michigan coached themselves out of this game. I cannot comprehend some of the coaching decisions that were made in this one. Punting up 7 with a minute left yielded 17 yards. That's nothing in a two-minute drill. Michigan had the chance to put the game out of reach with a FG attempt late and did not. Nor did they really try for any endzone chances in overtime - I did not see a single attempt into the endzone. Penn State was ultimately rewarded for this with a justified pass interference penalty, after which they were able to walk it into the endzone.

Michigan's interior line again looked lost, yielding significant ground on the blocked field goal and limiting Toussaint and Green to -wait for it - 28 yards on 30 carries. Yuck. Without Lewan, this line is really, really pathetic. Lewan's injury might have had something to do with the coaches' indecision late, but it seemed like Hoke had little confidence in his offense or quarterback when he needed them most. Despite averaging less than a yard per carry not including Gardner, Michigan continually ran with their backs.

A few positives from this game - Gardner seemed to recover from his miserable first half quite nicely, Funchess continues to look great in limited targets on the outside, and Gardner ran the ball well today. Also saw some flashes of Frank Clark today, but Michigan's inability to pressure an 18-year old freshman QB eventually spelled doom late in the game, as Allen Robinson was able to take over and beat Michigan's inferior secondary. This Michigan team will continue to struggle without more consistency in the pass rush, but I was encouraged to see a few sacks and the fumble recovery today.

Despite the bad third down offense and questionable secondary play with no pass rush, Michigan almost won this game. That's what makes this one so rough.

What Joe Tessitore called "the most curious undefeated team in college football" is no more. Michigan will look to rebound against a feisty Indiana team next week and regain some ground in the whatever-division race. Lewan was walking around during OT and after the game, so hopefully he'll be alright.

Goodnight. This team is finally what we thought they were - mediocre. We'd hope Hoke can coach them into some wins, but what Jacobi calls "ludicrously conservative playcalling" spelled doom for Michigan today.

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