Posted on October 22, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Penn State was an excellent team last season, but they didn’t start out as the juggernaut they became. They had to grow into the role. Had they not been destroyed by Michigan early in the year, there is a very good chance they would have been in the playoffs last year over Washington.
This season the circumstances are a little different. Michigan entered Saturday night’s game holding onto a very thin-playoff thread. Penn State was not the up and coming power that it was last season. It was the No. 2 team in the nation a bona fide powerhouse looking to make a statement—which is precisely what they did.
It was clear what the Wolverines would have to do if they were going to have even a slim hope of winning. Their defense had to control the tempo of the game. It couldn’t let Saquon Barkley run wild. It couldn’t let Trace McSorley take his sweet time throwing the ball either. They had to make life difficult for Penn State’s offense.
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Michigan’s defense didn’t even come close to getting the job done.
Barkley scored his first of three touchdowns on Penn State’s second play of the game with a 69-yard run. The second came a few minutes later on the team’s sixth play of the game, this time from 15-yards out. His third came early in the fourth quarter on a 42-yard reception he juggled before gaining control of it in the end zone.
“Obviously we knew they were very aggressive. They’re a great defense, got a great defensive coordinator,” Barkley said after the game (ESPN). “Sometimes it seems like a heavyweight fight. They’re going to get some, and we’re going to get ours. When you got your opportunity, you got to score.”
The Wolverines were able to slow Penn State’s offense and get their offense moving enough to get within a point, 14-13, late in the first half. But then McSorley got the first of three rushing touchdowns on the night before the end of the half to extend Penn State’s lead to 21-13 at the break.
If Michigan was going to have a shot, they would need to start the second half with points and shut down Penn State—but they did neither. John O’Korn was able to get a couple of first downs on Michigan’s opening drive but eventually had to punt.
Trace McSorley responded by marching the Nittany Lions right down the field and finishing off a nine-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown scamper. His third touchdown run came about midway through the fourth quarter and capped off the scoring for the night at 42-13, Penn State.
“Tonight kind of speaks for itself,’’ McSorley said later (Philly.com). “We scored 42 points against one of the top defenses in the Big Ten.”
A season after losing 49-10, Penn State returned the favor with a 42-13 beating in primetime. If revenge was on anyone’s mind, they certainly got it. They will not have much time to enjoy it though. But Penn State has an even bigger challenge in store for it next week with a trip to Ohio State.
Michigan will try to get back on track with a game against Rutgers.