Ronnie Bell

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No. 7 Penn State exhales after holding off No. 16 Michigan, 28-21

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Recent history has seen Penn State fail to finish off a game despite carrying a double-digit lead int he fourth quarter, but Saturday night was a different story for the Nittany Lions. No. 7 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) had to sweat a bit against No. 16 Michigan (5-2, 3-2 Big Ten) after jumping all over the visitors early on, but a 28-21 victory was one of the gutsiest wins of the James Franklin era in Happy Valley.

Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the Wolverines in the first quarter but then went flat on offense. Credit Michigan’s defense for hanging in there through a rough start and regaining their confidence, and hand out some blame for Penn State’s playcalling once again going timid and going off the mark. Michigan dominated the second half in time of possession as Penn State was unable to manage much offense. that gave Michigan’s offense an opportunity to grind away at the Penn State defense, which paid off in a big way after halftime.

Zach Charbonnet brought the Wolverines with one score with a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the Michigan defense got bit on Penn State’s ensuing possession. After KJ Hamler picked up a big catch for a first down on a 3rd-and-5 with Michigan blitzing Sean Clifford, Clifford went deep to a streaking Hamler on the very next play for a 53-yard touchdown to energize Beaver Stadium.

The comfort of a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter was short-lived because Michigan answered in the most Big Ten way possible; a scrum at the goal line with Shea Patterson getting the ball just across the goal line.

With Michigan once again working their way deep into Penn State territory, the Wolverines were faced with a fourth-and-goal from the Penn State three-yard line with 2:01 to play. Patterson got the pass to his receiver in the end zone, but a dropped pass by Ronnie Bell resulted in a turnover on downs.

Still in need a first down, Penn State put the ball in the hands of Hamler to pick up a hard-fought first down. The play ended with Hamler being helped off the field after getting banged up on the play. Hamler had six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, but his four-yard run in the final minutes to keep the clock rolling after Michigan had burned two timeouts may have been the clutch play of the day for the speedy receiver.

Penn State won its second game against a top 25 team in as many weeks, helping to keep the Nittany Lions in stride in the Big Ten East standings with Ohio State. The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are the only undefeated teams in the division and won’t play until the next-to-last game of the regular season. Both teams have some work to do before the focus can shift on to a potential division-deciding game. Michigan suffering its second loss in big Ten play really hurts Michigan’s chances for an elusive division crown.

Penn State will head to East Lansing next week to take on Michigan State (4-3). Michigan State has frustrated the Nittany Lions each of the last two years with stunning victories that have essentially dealt fatal blows to nay longshot playoff opportunities for Penn State on top of taking them out of the running for a trip to the Big Ten championship game. The Spartans were off this week.

Things won’t get any easier for Michigan next week, although they will be home to host No. 8 Notre Dame. The Irish took last year’s game in South Bend, 24-17, in the season opener. Michigan won the last meeting with the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor in 2013, 41-30. Next week’s game will likely be much more low scoring.

Jonathan Taylor paces Wisconsin to big lead on Michigan before leaving game

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor had a big first quarter to give Wisconsin an early jump on Michigan, but his status is unknown after a trip to the injury tent and an early exit to the locker room. The Badgers lead the Wolverines 28-0 at halftime in Madison in a Big Ten opener between two unbeaten teams.

Taylor was the star of the first quarter with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown run was a 72-yard sprint up the middle of the Michigan defense, and it came just moments after a controversial replay review wiped out a big pass play by Michigan.

During the second quarter, Taylor was seen heading into the sideline medical tent after walking gingerly on the sideline. His return was reported to be questionable, according to the sideline report during the broadcast. Taylor left the medical tent on the sideline for the locker room later in the second quartrer. That led Wisconsin’s running game to be led by another Taylor, A.J. Taylor. Taylor picked up an 11-yard run during a 15-play touchdown drive by the Badgers to put the home team up 21-0. At this rate, will Wisconsin even need to see the star Heisman hopeful back today?

Michigan’s best chance to score came on their first offensive series of the game. After going down 7-0, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson connected on a 68-yard pass to Ronnie Bell to put the Wolverines in scoring position right off the bat, but a return to the power running game Michigan has used as its identity in those types of situations ended in failure when Ben Mason carried the football for the first time this season and fumbled at the four-yard line. Michigan appeared to be in position to move the ball on their next possession but a video replay overturned a call on the field for another deep pass to Bell. The official ruling stated the ball had come loose as Bell was diving to the ground to make the catch, although video replay never quite showed what would be considered indisputable evidence strong enough to overturn the original call on the field.

Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan ended the first half by putting his team up 28-0 with a run right up the middle of the Michigan defense.

Being down 28-0 at Wisconsin is quite a mountain for this Michigan offense right now. Even without Taylor available, potentially, Wisconsin has the defense to protect a 28-point lead in the final 30 minutes of the game, especially if the Michigan offense continues to be a massive work in progress.

We’ll see if anything changes after halftime, but Wisconsin is in a great spot at the break.