Michigan Wolverines unforeseen pass rush smothers PSU, 18-13


The Michigan Wolverines suddenly discovered the pass rush they’ve been missing for several seasons.

Not since 2008 has Michigan tallied six sacks in a game, and they couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The Wolverines were facing Penn State’s Big Ten leading passer Christian Hackenberg, who averages 272 yards per game and who was expected to carve up the Michigan secondary.

QBs tough on Wolverines

After all, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson, Utah’s Travis Wilson and Rutgers’ Gary Nova torched Michigan for a combined 802 passing yards and seven touchdowns.

But somehow, Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) was able to add significant pressure on Hackenberg, in addition to its season-long ability to stop the run.

The combination of the two eventually shut down Penn State’s offense, as the Wolverines pulled out an 18-13 victory before 113,085 at the Big House.

Inspired defense

Michigan’s defensive pressure was almost non-existent in the early going, but a 10-yard scoring strike from Hackenberg to DaeSean Hamilton put the Lions up 13-7, and seemed to inspire the floundering Wolverines.

From that point on, Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) ran a total of 45 plays, gaining just 74 yards while never advancing past the Michigan 37.

"“I think our kids had a will, and they willed themselves to keep going, and it was pressure on the quarterback with four-man, three-man rush that really worked out pretty well and maximum coverage,” Coach Hoke said in the post-game press conference. “And part of that, you know, is he’s (Hackenberg)gotta hold the ball a little longer, and we got off the field in third downs…”"

The sackmasters for Michigan were Brennen Beyer (2), Ben Gedeon (1), Jake Ryan (1), Frank Clark (1), Chris Wormley (.5) and Mario Ojemudia (.5).

Dismal running games

Neither team could muster much of a running game. Penn State rushed for 54 yards on 35 carries while Michigan gained just 64 yards on 31 carries,

For Michigan, De’Veon Smith did his best in place of injured Derrick Green, but was only able to gain 24 yards on 12 carries. Justice Hayes added 20 yards on seven attempts.

The game boiled down to the passing of Hackenberg and Michigan’s Devin Gardner.

Each threw a touchdown pass and an interception. Gardner’s pick set up Hamilton’s touchdown, and Hackenberg’s pick allowed Michigan’s Matt Wyle to kick his second of three fields goals to tie it at 13-13. Wyle kicked the eventual game winner from 37-yards out and 11:24 remaining.

Bye week next

The win sends Michigan into the first bye week on a positive note, especially since the Wolverines dropped three games in a row, and Hoke has been entangled in the controversy over quarterback Shane Morris‘ “probable concussion.”

It also gives Michigan two weeks to prepare for its annual showdown with in-state rival Michigan State. The Spartans, who crushed Michigan 29-6 a year ago, have won five of the last six games in the series.

Hoke, whose job may be in jeopardy at the season’s end, could certainly use the time off to create a few tricks for Mark Dantonio‘s Spartans.

A win over Michigan State (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) would not only give Hoke some breathing room, it would keep Michigan’s slim (to none) hopes alive for a shot at the Big Ten’s East Division title.


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