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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.

No. 15 Michigan flashes look of Big Ten contender in win over Maryland

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No. 15 Michigan (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) won their fifth straight game since losing the season opener by flexing their defensive strength against Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon in Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines sent the homecoming crowd home happy with a 42-21 win behind the strength of a defense that made things extremely difficult for the Terrapins all afternoon.

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns in the win, and running back Karan Higdon rushed for 103 yards. The Michigan offense continues to look formidable as the season goes along, even after overcoming a rough start last week against Northwestern. Michigan was efficient with their third-down conversions, converting 8 of 13 in the game, but this was a story for the defense.

Maryland didn’t go over 100 yards of offense until a fourth-quarter touchdown drive of 75 yards, which took them to 122 yards of offense. Maryland had four three-and-out drives and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter the offense put any points on the scoreboard. A kickoff return of 98 yards for a touchdown by Ty Johnson was the lone score for Maryland in the first quarter until the fourth-quarter score. The Terrapins did add a third touchdown late in the fourth quarter with the game all but official.

The win moves Michigan to 3-0 in Big Ten play, and the Wolverines now sit in front of both Penn State and Michigan State in the Big Ten standings after the Nittany Lions lost last week and the Spartans went down at home on Saturday. Michigan will still have to play both of those division foes of course, as well as Ohio State, so it’s not time to start speculating about Michigan contending for the Big Ten title just yet. However, the defense remains the strength of the team and the offense continues to look consistent enough to make some noise in the Big Ten race.

Next up for Michigan is a big one. The Wolverines host Wisconsin next weekend. The Badgers will likely come to Michigan Stadium with a 4-1 record (assuming they beat Nebraska) and a top 15 ranking, The game against Wisconsin will open a challenging three-game stretch with games against Michigan State on the road and home against Penn State to follow. If Michigan gets through that stretch no worse than 2-1, it’s game on for a Big Ten title run.

Maryland will look for a rebound win next week when they host Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lost at home to Illinois on Saturday and are now 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten.

No. 14 Michigan overcomes 17-point deficit for Big Ten win at Northwestern

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Sometimes you just take a win any way you can get it. That was one of those games for No. 14 Michigan (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) Saturday at Northwestern (1-3, 2-0 Big Ten). After going down 17-0 in the first half, Michigan scored 20 unanswered points to get out of Evanston with a 20-17 win.

Karan Higdon‘s five-yard touchdown run with 4:06 to play allowed Michigan fans to briefly exhale after a long and gutsy game saw so many self-inflicted hurdles in the form of penalties and early miscues from a slow-starting offense. Higdon rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the game, continuing to prove to be a valuable asset in the Michigan offense this season.

Also proving to be a valuable member of the offense was quarterback Shea Patterson, who also tossed in some clutch plays both with his arm and his legs. Among the key plays provided by Patterson was a run on 3rd and 6 to get out of pressure and convert a big first down. That run was followed by a 22-yard pass to Zach Gentry to put the Wolverines in great position to run in for a touchdown moments later, with Higdon doing the honors.

In the third quarter, Rashan Gary left the game for a brief period of time. When he returned to the game at the start of the fourth quarter, he was wearing a brace on his right arm. The pressure he created, along with Chase Winovich, wore on Northwestern’s offensive efforts as the game wore on. Michigan clamped down on the Northwestern offense as Clayton Thorson went from making early safe and efficient passes to being put in a position to be asked to do a little more.

It wasn’t pretty, but Michigan will surely take it and move one. Jim Harbaugh will have plenty to look over form the game film in this one as the schedule continues and big games remain on the horizon. But getting to October without taking a second loss in September is much better than going into the new month having dropped two before even playing games against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State. This was the first time Michigan overcame a 17-point deficit to win under Harbaugh.

Michigan returns home to play Maryland. Northwestern will play at Michigan State next week.