Shea Patterson

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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.

Penn State leading Michigan, 21-7, in front of whiteout crowd

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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.

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.

Defense leads the way as No. 19 Michigan tops No. 14 Iowa, 10-3

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No. 19 Michigan (4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) may still not have the offense where it wants it, but a 10-3 victory over No. 14 Iowa (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) was a reminder the Wolverines can get by on their defense if needed. The Wolverines remained undefeated at home and improved to 2-1 in Big Ten play since their lopsided loss at Wisconsin. But the search for the offense will continue in Ann Arbor.

Iowa’s biggest shortcoming was lacking the ability to finish off drives. Iowa had to settle for a field goal despite having a 1st and Goal in the second quarter. The Hawkeyes also punted in Michigan territory twice and Nate Stanley was intercepted twice on the Michigan side of the field. Stanley, who hadn’t thrown an interception all season, was intercepted three times by the Wolverines. Down 10-3 late in the fourth quarter, Iowa’s most promising drive of the second half imploded in spectacular fashion with a pair of holding penalties starting from the Michigan 25-yard line, a false start penalty and a big sack for a loss on third down to bring up a 4th and 36 from the Iowa 49-yard line.

Neither team managed to get 300 yards of offense, which may have been expected given the styles of both teams. But four Iowa turnovers were difficult to overcome in a game where every possession was critical. Michigan jumped on an early Iowa turnover at the start of the game to take a quick 3-0 lead and got out of the first quarter with all of their points for the day. Fortunately for the Wolverines, it was more than enough to get the win.

Michigan spread the ball around on the field with six different players adding to the rushing total for the home team. Shea Patterson had a tough day throwing the football though, completing 14 of 26 passes for 147 yards with an interception.

Iowa returns home next week for a primetime showdown with No. 12 Penn State. Michigan will be on the road to face Illinois before getting their crack at the Nittany Lions in two weeks in Happy Valley.

Michigan leading Iowa in defensive battle in Ann Arbor

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Maybe Michigan hasn’t quite gotten everything fixed on offense, or maybe Iowa is just a better opponent than Rutgers. Or maybe it’s a little from Column A and a little from Column B. Either way, Michigan leads Iowa 10-3 at the end of the first half.

Things could not have started too much better for Michigan. Although the offense was forced to punt after a short drive to start the game, Iowa’s Mekhi Sargent fumbled on Iowa’s first offensive snap and the Wolverines pounce don the ball at the Iowa 18-yard line. Michigan had to settle for just a field goal after the Hawkeyes defense came through with a big stop, but the offense still was slow out of the gate. Michigan took a 10-0 lead on their next offensive series with a Zach Charbonnet run from the two-yard line. A big pass from Shea Patterson to Nico Collins for a gain of 51 yards got the drive started.

Since Michigan took the 10-0 lead though, this has turned into a throwback Big Ten slugfest led by the defenses. Entering this week, Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had not thrown an interception since last season. In the first half, he threw two.