UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WHTM) – Penn State dropped a critical Big Ten matchup against Michigan in front of a near-record crowd, losing 24-15 to a Wolverines team without head coach Jim Harbaugh after the Big Ten banned him from the sideline due to a sign-stealing investigation.
The game was highlighted by a lack of offense for the Nittany Lions, who had just 74 passing yards despite having a 5-star quarterback in Drew Allar and two running backs who combined for over 1,800 yards last year.
“We did not play well enough in all three phases,” said Head Coach James Franklin after the game.
Allar and the offense were held to 4-14 on third down attempts and 4.1 yards per play.
Franklin said the coaching staff “must do a better job of calling a game to allow a quarterback to get into rhythm” to help Allar, a true sophomore starting his first season for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions scored first on a 13 play, 66 yard drive that was capped off with a 21-yard field goal. The three points came after Penn State got down to the 3 yard line thanks to several big runs from running back Nicholas Singleton and Allar, but the offense failed to pass the goal line.
Michigan responded to start the second quarter with a 75 yard drive after having just 42 yards of offense in the first quarter. Blake Corum capped it off with a three yard touchdown run. He came back in the quarter with a 44 yard run that set up a 22 yard Donovan Edwards touchdown.
Penn State pushed back on a drive that included a 13 yard catch on 4th down by Kaden Saunders and a 34 yard run by Kaytron Allen. After Allar caught a 4 yard pass from Allen on a trick 4th down play, Allar ran the next play into the endzone from 11 yards out.
A two-point conversion attempt failed as Allar couldn’t find anyone in the back of the endzone at the end of the half.
The Nittany Lions’ opening drive to the second half ended abruptly with a fumble by Allar; Michigan capitalized by scoring three points to go up 17-9 with 3:36 left in the quarter.
Blake Corum’s second touchdown put Michigan up 24-9; Corum finished with 145 rushing yards on 26 attempts for the Wolverines.
A Theo Johnson touchdown with 1:59 left gave Penn State their second touchdown of the game, but a questionable 2-point play with several players bunched to the sideline resulted in an incomplete pass and Allar scrambling.
Franklin said after the game he felt “points were at a premium” as the team attempted multiple fourth down and 2 point conversions.
An emotional Johnson said after the game he felt like he “let a lot of people down.”
“Could’ve played better, you know as a captain there’s a lot of people counting on you to make plays and big moments,” Johnson said.
Penn State’s defense showed up throughout the game with critical third down stops. Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson made his presence known with a first quarter quarterback hurry in his return from injury for Penn State. Adissa Isaac also had an early sack, giving him 3.5 on the season.
While allowing just 545 rushing yards all season, the defense allowed more than 200 to Michigan. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was 7-8 with 60 passing yards with no pass attempts in the second half.
With two losses to Big Ten opponents, Penn State’s chances of reaching the College Football Playoffs are all but worn out.
“We lost to the number one and three team in the country,” said Franklin referring to the loss to Michigan and Ohio State. “That’s not good enough.”
- The reported attendance on Saturday was a season-high 110,856; the second largest in Beaver Stadium history.
- Michigan has now won four of the last six games against Penn State.
- More than a dozen NFL teams were expected to be at Saturday’s top-10 matchup to scout potential NFL talent.
The 8-2 Nittany Lions will continue their Big Ten season schedule on Nov. 18 against the unranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights for a noon kickoff at Beaver Stadium. They’ll wrap up the regular season on the road at Ford Field against the Michigan State Spartans before learning their bowl fate.