A blocked punt for Michigan gave Penn State’s lifeless offense a glimmer of hope, but Penn State’s inability to stop the opposition from answering allowed Michigan to take a 14-10 lead into the half in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions cashed in on the special teams gaffe by the Wolverines when Christain Hackenberg lofted a deep pass to Saeed Blacknall for a 25-yard rainbow touchdown and a 10-7 lead. But Michigan got a good kick return from Jourdan Lewis to take over at their 30-yard line with three timeouts left and 2:01 to play. A third-and-10 conversion with a great catch from Amara Darboh moved the football 26 yards into Penn State territory. Missed tackles were key for Penn State as Michigan used smart, short plays to pick up extra yardage as well as De’Veon Smith picked up 11 yards on one play when he could have been stopped for a minimal gain. Jake Rudock connected with Darboh again for an 11-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Penn State’s game-opening drive reached the red zone quickly thanks to a 56-yard run by Saquon Barkley, but Michigan tightened up and held the Nittany Lions to a field goal for the game’s first points.
Michigan answered using some good pass protection for Jake Rudock to move down the field using the middle fo the field to their advantage. Jehu Chesson caught a couple of big gains on third down situations to keep Michigan’s opening drive alive, and Rudock found an open Jake Butt down near the goal line and the tight end took the extra steps needed before falling into the end zone for a 7-3 lead.
After Penn State scuffled on their next drive, it was the defense that made some plays to try and turn the field of possession. A big sack by Torrence Brown (in for Carl Nassib) put the Wolverines in a 3rd and 17, and Blake Bell picked off the next pass from Rudock.