Donovan Peoples-Jones

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No. 8 Notre Dame sees title hopes end in ugly loss to No. 19 Michigan

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If you’re going to lose a shot at the national title in the month of October, there may not be a worse way to do it than the way No. 8 Notre Dame did on Saturday night. Playing on national TV in the Big House of one of their historic rivals, the Irish were crushed by the drip, drip, drip of a Wolverine running game they absolutely could not stop — and all of it happened in the pouring rain.

On a night where the elements prevented either team from throwing the ball, No. 19 Michigan out-rushed Notre Dame 303-47 en route to a 45-14 thumping of the Irish.

Shea Patterson finished the game 6-of-12 for 100 yards and two touchdowns and he was, by far, the more effective of the two quarterbacks. Notre Dame’s Ian Book hit just eight of his 25 passes for 73 yards and Notre Dame’s only score.

While neither team could throw the ball, only one of them ran it. Hassan Haskins chugged for a game-high 149 yards on 20 carries, while Zach Charbonnet rushed 15 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns, and Tru Wilson rushed five times for 41 yards and a score. Notre Dame, meanwhile, ran for only 47 yards on 31 carries.

The loss effectively ends any hope Notre Dame (5-2) had of reaching back-to-back College Football Playoffs, while Michigan (6-2) continued the signs of life it showed in the second half of last week’s loss to Penn State.

Michigan out-gained Notre Dame 437-180, with 75 of Notre Dame’s yards coming when the Irish trailed by 38 points.

On a night when everything went the maize and blue’s way, one of the key plays turned out to be a blocked Michigan punt which ended in Michigan’s favor. In a scoreless game early in the first quarter, Will Hall‘s punt was blocked just in front of his own end zone, but the Irish mistakenly touched the ball, allowing Michigan’s Daxton Hill to hop on the ball at the Michigan 35-yard line, giving the Wolverines new life. The Wolverines marched all the way to Notre Dame’s 2 and settled for a 21-yard Jake Moody field goal.

After a Notre Dame punt, Michigan put together two straight touchdown drives all of them on the ground. Over 15 straight runs, covering 119 yards, Hassan HaskinsZach Charbonnet and Patterson ran over around and through the Irish to take total control of the game.

Trailing 17-0 at the half, Notre Dame briefly climbed back in the game with a 7-yard pass from Book to Cole Kmet at the 5:27 mark of the third quarter, a drive greatly aided by the referees, who turned this interception into a pass interference against Michigan.

That momentum was short lived as Michigan, now able to throw the ball after a driving rain finally stopped, immediately moved 75 yards in six plays, capped by an 8-yard pass from Patterson to Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Patterson put the game away for good with a 16-yard strike to Nico Collins at the 11:29 mark of the fourth quarter, giving Michigan a 31-7 lead. The Wolverines added two more scores, coming on a 27-yard Wilson run and a 26-yard toss from Dylan McCaffrey to Mike Sainristil.

Notre Dame added a 14-yard touchdown by Javon McKinley from Phil Jurkovec, which did nothing to help the Irish win the game but did avoid matching the largest margin of defeat in the 45-game history of this series. Michigan’s 38-0 win over the Irish in 2003 still holds that mark.

This on-again, off-again series will go back to off, as the teams will not play again until a home-and-home in 2033-34, meaning Saturday’s win will give Michigan 14 years’ worth of scoreboard.

No. 16 Michigan avoids complete meltdown at Illinois to get to 5-1

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Talk about a game of two halves. For the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s Big Ten contest, No. 16 Michigan (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten) jumped out to a 28-0 lead on Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) before giving up a late score before halftime. It seemed harmless at first, but the Illini went on to score 18 more points on Michigan to push the Wolverines on the brink of a catastrophic loss. Fortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines responded and put the game away in the fourth quarter for a 42-25 road victory.

If there was a reason for concern for Jim Harbaugh and his program, it may have been the stale third-quarter performance. Michigan picked up just 11 yards in the third quarter and was out-gained 114-11. Illinois also chipped away at what was once a 28-0 lead by closing the gap to 28-17 heading to the fourth quarter. All of this, mind you, with Illinois playing with a backup quarterback in Matt Robinson. Former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters was ruled out for the game by the Illini.

Shea Patterson and Donovan Peoples-Jones connected for a short touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to create some breathing room after the Illini made it a three-point game. The defense of the Wolverines then forced a turnover on the first play of the ensuing possession by Illinois. Michigan later put the game away for good by forcing another fourth-quarter fumble by the Illini at the Illinois one-yard line. Patterson picked up the short touchdown on the next play to create the 42-25 advantage.

Patterson completed half of his 22 pass attempts for 194 yards and three touchdowns as part of a four total-touchdown afternoon. Zach Charbonnet led the Michigan running game with 116 of the team’s 251 rushing yards.

Michigan will be back on the road next week for a primetime showdown with No. 10 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are in action tonight at Iowa and hope to bring their undefeated record home with them for a revenge game against the Wolverines. the last three meetings in this series have been dominating victories by the home team. Things won’t get any easier for Illinois next week. The Illini host No. 8 Wisconsin next week. The Badgers have won nine straight in the series and 13 of the previous 14 meetings since 2003.

No. 5 Michigan’s revenge tour adds No. 14 Penn State to the list

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The revenge tour for No. 5 Michigan (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten) had quite the second half performance against No. 14 Penn State (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) on Saturday. The Wolverines dominated the hapless Nittany Lions 42-7 in a loud statement game in the latest game on Michigan’s revenge tour this season. Now with wins nailed down against three of the four teams to beat them last year (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State), the eyes in Ann Arbor are already looking forward to the regular season finale against Ohio State for the grand finale.

Michigan’s defense, led by revenge tour frontman linebacker Chase Winovich set the tone in the first half by allowing just one third-down conversion to the Nittany Lions before halftime. Winovich sacked Trace McSorley and recovered a fumble in the first half as Michigan took a 14-0 lead into halftime with a Shea Patterson touchdown run and a pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. Michigan continued to wear down Penn State on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the field, with the offense staying on the field for 11 minutes in the third quarter alone and doubling the lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Michigan delivered what felt like the knockout blow at the end of the third quarter when Patterson tossed a touchdown pass to Zach Gentry at the end of a 90-yard drive. Penn State’s defense appeared to be gassed on the drive after spending over 11 minutes on the field in the third quarter. But just moments later, that lopsided 21-0 lead became 28-0 when Tommy Stevens came in to replace McSorley at quarterback and Stevens tossed a pick-six to Brandon Watson.

With memories of Penn State running up the score on them a year ago in Happy Valley, Michigan continued to pour it on in the fourth quarter with more big plays on the ground. Karan Higdon (132 rushing yards) and Chris Evans (57 rushing yards) each scored a short touchdown run to pad the lead as Michigan continued to look like the class of the Big Ten. A late touchdown run by Stevens allowed Penn State to avoid being shutout for the first time since 2001, against Michigan.

The home team in this series has won by a lopsided score in each of the last three meetings, and the winning team has scored at least 42 points in each.

Michigan continues to build a steady place atop the Big Ten East standings. Now at 6-0 in Big Ten play, Michigan owns a one-game lead over Ohio State and a two-game lead over Michigan State with a head-to-head tiebreaker on the Spartans already under their belt. Penn State falls to 3-3 in Big Ten play and is now eliminated from contention for the Big Ten championship game with head-to-head losses to all three teams in front of them (Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State). With just Rutgers and Indiana left to play before ending the year on the road against Ohio State, it sure looks as though the Big Ten East could be decided in the regular season finale in Columbus, but Ohio State has been cracking and the possibility exists Michigan could clinch the East division before having to face Ohio State.

Michigan will be on the road against Rutgers next week. Penn State will look to rebound next week at home against Wisconsin. It will be the toughest game remaining for Penn State.

Michigan flexing on Penn State, pitching shutout in Big House

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When on the road against a top five team, you simply cannot make as many mistakes as Penn State did in the first half against Michigan. As a result, Penn State finds themselves trailing the Wolverines 14-0 in Ann Arbor, and it doesn’t really feel that close of a game. Failures on third downs, penalties, questionable coaching decisions and an inability to take advantage of opportunities have burned Penn State after one half, while Michigan continues to stick to their identity of power running and defense to hold the upper hand.

Penn State came out swinging on the first play of the game with Trace McSorley completing a 25-yard pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth to get the Nittany Lions to midfield, but back-to-back sacks by Chase Winovich and Josh Uche forced Penn State to punt the ball from their own 36-yard line. Penn State also had to burn a timeout on the punt too.

Karan Higdon then went to work on the ground, carrying the ball on each of Michigan’s first three plays with gains of one, 10, and 50 to get into the red zone. Quarterback Shea Patterson would be the player to get the Wolverines on the board a few plays later with a keeper off to the left side of the line.

Penn State appeared to create a great opportunity early in the second quarter with a blocked field goal attempt by former Penn State commitment Quinn Nordin. A return for a touchdown was taken off the board due to nullifying chop block penalties by Michigan and Penn State, but the Nittany Lions took over at the 35-yard line and quickly advanced to midfield following a pass interference penalty on the Wolverines. But one play later, McSorley and running back Miles Sanders had confusion on a handoff and Winovich pounced on a fumbled ball out of McSorley’s hands.

Michigan stuck with their running game to do most of the damage from there and Patterson ended a 10-play drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass to an open Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 14-0 lead.

Penn State didn’t pick up a third down conversion until the final two and a half minutes of the second quarter. At that point, Michigan held Penn State to -2 rushing yards while the Wolverines had 122 yards on the ground in the first half. Later in the half, Penn State appeared to be threatening to at least get some point son the scoreboard before halftime, but a missed wide open pass by McSorley to his intended receiver (DeAndre Thompkins) for an easy touchdown was followed by a sack on third down by Jordan Glasgow to move the ball well out of field goal position.

Michigan appears to be in great shape at the half, but Penn State is not buried just yet. If the Wolverines continue to pound away though, they could walk away with a big win against Penn State.

No. 6 Michigan too strong for No. 24 Michigan State; Wolverines win first road game vs. ranked opponent since 2006

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A week after blowing away Wisconsin, No. 6 Michigan (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) was ready for a defensive showdown against No. 24 Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten). Behind a strong performance by the Michigan defense against a battered Michigan State offense, the Wolverines overpowered the Spartans in a lightning-delayed game by a score of 21-7.

Shea Patterson passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Karan Higdon led things on the ground with 137 rushing yards on 31 rushing attempts. A 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones down the right sideline in the third quarter gave Michigan a 14-7 lead. It was the only catch of the day for Peoples-Jones, and it could not have come at a better time.

Michigan State was happy to have running back LJ Scott back on the field after the senior running back had missed the last four games, but Scott was unable to have much of an impact as Michigan’s rushing defense was suffocating all afternoon. The Wolverines also made things difficult for Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, who finished the day completing just 5-of-25 attempts for 66 yards. It did not help that Felton Davis III, who caught the game-winning pass at Penn State last week, went down with a reported torn Achilles in the second quarter. Lewerke was later replaced by Rocky Lombardi. Ironically, perhaps, Lewerke scored the only touchdown of the day for Michigan State by catching a pass on a trick play run by the Spartans that had Lewerke open for a pass from Darrell Stewart Jr. in the end zone.

The win snapped a 17-game losing streak for Michigan against ranked teams on the road that dated back to the final game of the 2006 regular season against Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh had been 0-4 against ranked teams when playing on the road, and this win also evens Harbaugh’s record against Michigan State and head coach Mark Dantonio.

Michigan will now get a well-deserved off week before taking the field again. When they do, they will be at home for a revenge game against Penn State. A win over the Nittany Lions (who lost to Michigan State last week) would firmly trim the Big Ten East race into a two-horse race between the Wolverines and Ohio State, if it isn’t one already. Penn State will be playing a home game against Iowa next week and Michigan State will host Purdue.