Michigan 21, Penn State 17

Michigan 21, Penn State 17

November 14, 2021
David Ojabo (image via ClickOnDetroit)

That was a win. It wasn’t always pretty – especially on offense – but a win in Happy Valley is always nice. It’s not an easy place to play, and the Nittany Lions are usually pretty good, so you take an ugly win if you can get it. I decided to watch the game sans social media and just enjoy the back-and-forth, because I knew there would be a ton of griping. And nobody’s allowed to gripe but me. So I grumbled at times to myself, but for the most part, I thought Michigan played pretty well.

Hit the jump for more.

Thank goodness for Hassan Haskins. Haskins had a career-high 31 carries for 156 yards (5.0 yards/carry). Despite not scoring, he was probably Michigan’s most valuable player on offense. Not only did he often create something out of nothing, but he caught 5 passes for 45 yards, both of which are also career highs. That type of performance was necessary with Blake Corum out. Freshman Donovan Edwards got a couple carries, and you can see he’s just not ready yet, as he stumbled his way to 2 carries for 2 yards. He really needs to work on his footwork and balance. But back to Haskins, the guy just finds ways to twist and stretch and spin for necessary yardage. His instincts are outstanding.

Kudos to PSU for wearing out Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo. It was great gamesmanship by PSU to decide to allow Aidan Hutchinson (3 sacks) and David Ojabo (2 sacks) to wear themselves out early in the game by sacking quarterback Sean Clifford over and over again and dancing effervescently. I thought that would end up going badly for PSU, but the pass rush slowed down a little bit later as Hutchinson/Ojabo’s energy waned. Unfortunately, the carcass of Clifford was unable to threaten much on the ground or even through the air when it came to crunch time.

Was that the defensive game plan? I wonder how much of the defensive game plan was to get after Clifford by any means necessary, or if the defensive line was just drooling so much about facing PSU’s offensive line that they got out of their rush lanes. With the defensive ends shredding PSU’s tackles, Michigan’s interior defensive line seemed a little undisciplined with the thought of getting sacks, too. As the game went on, I thought they did a better job of maintaining rush lane integrity and preventing Clifford from escaping vertically out of the pocket. That slowed down the rush and forced Clifford to try to win the game through the air.

4th-and-2 ugh. I hated the 4th-and-2 play call when Michigan packed everyone inside, overloading the right side of the offense. Under center with the opportunity to run the ball left, where only 3 defenders existed, Michigan could have sent the fullback (Erick All) and Haskins left, outnumbering Penn State’s defense and preventing center Andrew Vastardis from having to reach the playside defensive tackle. I don’t know if McNamara had license to check the run to the other side, but Penn State obviously knew what was coming and Haskins had no chance.

With all due respect – which isn’t much – why is James Franklin so dumb? Running a fake field goal from the 2-yard line against a team with good special teams is dumb. Just leave your offense out there and try to gain 2 yards for a score. Get the ball in your best athletes’ hands and try to score. Unless Franklin thinks his punter/kicker is his best athlete, then this is stupid. The fake punt worked not because it caught Michigan by complete surprise but because a guy who hasn’t played much (Quinten Johnson) misjudged the throw.

Michigan is 9-1. I’m going to take a victory lap early here and taunt the people who thought Jim Harbaugh forgot how to coach. There were people who jumped off the wagon last year – during the weirdest year in anyone living’s memory – when Michigan went 2-4 and thought the program was going down the tubes. At the very worst, Michigan is going 9-4 this year. The Wolverines put players in the NFL at a pace matched only by a few powerhouse programs, and it looks like they’ll do it again in the near future with the likes of David Ojabo, Aidan Hutchinson, Daxton Hill, and others. Harbaugh was winning 9.4 games per season before COVID. Does he beat OSU and MSU as often as we would like? No. The lack of faith in Harbaugh is baffling to me. He is a legitimately excellent coach whenever Nico Collins, Ambry Thomas, and various others aren’t bailing on his team.

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