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Inflection Point: Penn State 2018

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A bizarre sequence negated a Penn State field goal block return for a score to tie the game. It also negated the Nittany Lions’ only momentum early.

Dustin Johnston / Maize n Brew

Don Brown’s defense ensured early Penn State would have to find unique ways to score.

Chase Winovich and Josh Uche both sliced into the pocket to sack Trace McSorley on the first drive. As a team, the Nittany Lions managed just five yards net rushing on the first three drives.

They needed something weird, like a turnover, a K.J. Hamler return or a blocked kick. Roll the clip.

Former Michigan commit Garrett Taylor scooped up a Nick Scott block and waltzed into the south end zone to potentially knot the game at 7-7. Despite the Wolverines dominating yardage 181-35 to that point, they stared down a tight ballgame.

Referee Jeff Servinski told everyone to cool their jets. He called two illegal block below the waist penalties — one on Michigan before the kick and one on PSU on the return — and an unsportsmanlike conduct on Michigan for sideline interference.

In short, this negated all the Nittany Lions’ momentum and put them back on their own 35-yard line. Winovich snatched it right back on the next play.

The maize-colored avalanche — and you never want to eat yellow snow, Penn State — that ensued was staggering. Shea Patterson quickly led a touchdown drive culminating in a 23-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones.

McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens led an offense that only mustered 76 more yards until a final garbage time drive. Meanwhile, Karan Higdon was sledgehammering his way to his seventh straight 100-yard game — closing toward a school record.

Speaking of Stevens, he gifted Brandon Watson his second pick-six of the year to fall behind 28-0.

At the end of the carnage, Jim Harbaugh had routed James Franklin in a way no one has since...Jim Harbaugh in 2016.

It’s possible the blocked kick touchdown would have only delayed the inevitable. However, the offense sputtered to three straight three-and-outs, spanning the end of the second and beginning of the third quarters.

The tension in the Ann Arbor air would have been much thicker if that was during a 7-7 game rather than a 14-0 one.

Instead, Brown exorcised his demons from Happy Valley a year ago by releasing a swarm of his own on the Penn State backfield.

Five sacks, only 186 yards and a 42-7 victory later, you can bet he slept like a mustachioed baby Saturday night.