Michigan Wolverines: 3 Game Losing Streak Snapped Under the Lights


Oct 11, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner (98) passes the ball in the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 18-13. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It might be something to do with playing under the lights. It might have something to do with 200 former players rallying to Ann Arbor. It could be that the Michigan Wolverines are simply a superior football team to the Penn State Nittany Lions. No matter the cause or reason, Michigan was back on the winning side of football.

The win wasn’t pretty, but it was one the Wolverines desperately needed. It was more than just the win, however. Michigan showed toughness. The players displayed resolve. There was a lot of grit, embodied by Devin Gardner limping onto the field despite a mangled ankle.

It was these moments that were heartening to see, as opposed to the actual game played. The Wolverines might not have played well, but they played their hardest.

The football side of things started out rocky, with Penn State ending a 57 yard drive with a field goal. The prevailing thought might have been “here we go again” before Michigan responded with a touchdown. The drive was sustained by several athletic catches from Amara Darboh, a wideout that Michigan has leaned on heavily this year. Yet it wasn’t Darboh’s athletics that left people talking after the drive. Devin Funchess, the wide receiver that fans have dubbed “Mini-Megatron” stole an interception out of the hands of a Penn State player before racing into the end zone for the score.

After another long drive, the Nittany Lions were forced to settle for yet another field goal. Michigan then took over, and seeming disaster struck when Gardner threw a pass right into the hands of a waiting Penn State lineman. The Wolverine defense couldn’t manage to save a field goal this time around, as Christian Hackenburg rifled a pass into the end zone for the lead. It was the last time Penn State would score all game.

Michigan responded with the first of three Matt Wile field goals, this one from 45 yards out. Both the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions squandered opportunities to score before halftime, and Michigan went into the locker room down three.

Things got even uglier after half, as neither team could muster any offense. Both offensive lines faltered, with Penn State failing to protect Hackenburg, as Michigan failed to open any holes for its running backs.

It seemed like the game would be destined for punt after punt until a heavy Michigan blitz late in the third quarter. Panicked by the sight of Frank Clark and Ryan Glasgow, Hackenburg heaved the ball across his body. Jourdan Lewis jumped in front of a Penn State player to give Michigan excellent field position.

Though the Wolverines had a great opportunity to look at a touchdown, they were missing Devin Gardner. The starter was sitting out a few plays to nurse his ankle, and third stringer Russell Bellomy entered the game. After throwing two passes almost into the arms of Penn State players, Michigan opted to run the ball. Utilizing this method, the Wolverines failed to get a first down, Matt Wile’s leg again came through, this time hitting a field goal from 42 yards.

The next Nittany Lion drive never materialized, and Gardner mustered enough adrenaline to re-enter the game. He promptly stepped up to deliver a bullet to Dennis Norfleet, and then found Funchess on the next play. Michigan couldn’t break through again, but Wile was ready to hit his third field goal of the evening, a 37 yarder.

Penn State had one remaining chance, but it looked like it was a lost cause after Hackenburg was flagged for intentional grounding. Facing third and long, the Wolverines sent the house. Frank Clark was the first to reach the Penn State quarterback, flinging him to the ground near the end zone.

Penn State had lost close to all hope, but allowed their ensuing snap to sail out of the back of the end zone for a safety, hoping to recover the ensuing kick-off. They recovered the kick, but a player was ruled offside by the official. Michigan would get the ball, and after a few runs by Justice Hayes and De’Veon Smith, the Wolverines were finally able to take a knee to run out the clock.

There were finally looks of happiness from the players as they rushed over to the student section. The rousing rendition of “The Victors” played this time following a win, and desperation in Ann Arbor was staved off for yet another week.