No. 7 Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead on No. 16 Michigan in front of the whiteout crowd in Happy Valley Saturday night. The Nittany Lions lead the Wolverines 21-7 at the half thanks to two touchdown passes by Sean Clifford and one more touchdown run by the Penn State quarterback.
Michigan was forced to burn a timeout before the first snap of the game. As the play clock was winding down with Shea Patterson and the Wolverines at the end of the stadium with the student section, a miscommunication led to Jim Harbaugh calling for a timeout rather than risk an early mistake with the football. Later on the opening drive, Michigan opted to punt from the Penn State 47-yard line rather than try to convert a 4th-and-1. The Michigan punt trickled into the end zone for a touchback.
Penn State was the first to put a dent on the scoreboard when Clifford dropped a pass right into the hands of tight end Pat Freiermuth midway through the first quarter. Clifford’s 17-yard touchdown pass came on the first play after dropping a dime for Jahan Dotson to get the Nittany Lions inside the red zone for the first time on the night. Clifford later scored a touchdown on the ground by reaching across the goal line on the first play of the second quarter.
After exchanging punts on the next couple of possessions, the Penn State defense picked up the first turnover of the game when Tariq Castro-fields somehow managed to intercept a short screen pass from Shea Patterson in traffic at midfield. Penn State capitalized on the possession with another well-placed pass from Clifford to KJ Hamler for a touchdown.
Michigan did start getting some composure on offense late in the second quarter. After going down 21-0, the Wolverines strung together a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Zach Charbonnet running 12 yards for Michigan’s first score of the night.
The Wolverines still have plenty of work to do, and they’ll need the defense to keep the game within reach. This Michigan offense may not be suited to score a ton of points, but 14 points is still a manageable deficit even in the whiteout conditions in Beaver Stadium.