Michigan 41, Penn State 17

Michigan 41, Penn State 17

October 16, 2022
Donovan Edwards (image via USA Today)

This reminded me of 2021 Northwestern. Last fall Michigan played a completely overmatched Northwestern team. The Wolverines dominated that matchup . . . except for when Northwestern running back Evan Hull broke out on a 75-yard touchdown run. He ended up with 81 total rushing yards, and quarterback Ryan Hilinski was 14/29 for 119 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. It was one of those games where one huge play for the opposition really grinds your gears. Against Penn State yesterday, it was two big plays: a 62-yard run by quarterback Sean Clifford and a 47-yard interception return touchdown by Curtis Jacobs. Somehow the Nittany Lions were ahead 14-13 and 17-16 despite being totally unable to find any consistency on offense.

Hit the jump for more.

Is Indiana’s defense better than Penn State’s? Last week Indiana’s defensive line and linebackers had Michigan’s blocking schemes and plays figured out. It was tough sledding against a mildly talented opponent. That was not the case yesterday, as Michigan racked up 418 rushing yards on 55 attempts (7.6 yards/carry). The last time Michigan topped 418 rushing yards was in 2016 against Rutgers, when the Wolverines ran 56 times for 481 yards (8.6 yards/carry) and 9 touchdowns in a 78-0 victory. So at least when it comes to running the ball, Michigan treated PSU like a pre-Schiano Rutgers team.

Speaking of running backs . . . Blake Corum (28 catches, 166 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Donovan Edwards (16 carries, 173 yards, 2 TDs) had fantastic days running the ball. Corum’s 61-yard touchdown run and Edwards’s 67-yard score were two of the big highlights of the day. It was the longest run of Edwards’s career. Corum had two 67-yarders last season, and this was his longest rush of the 2022 season so far. Corum is now #2 in the country in rushing yards (behind Illinois’ Chase Brown) with 901, and he leads the nation in touchdowns with 13. Edwards is a dynamic runner once he’s in the open field. He’s clearly not as good as Corum in small spaces, but his speed and acceleration make him very difficult to bring down if he gets a crease.

J.J. McCarthy thinks he’s a superhero. McCarthy thinks he can make any play, and he can make more plays than most. His speed, toughness, and arm strength make him exciting to watch. He tends to hold onto the ball too long for those reasons, and sometimes that gets him into trouble. He took a huge risk when falling away to float a ball over a linebacker in the flat, and . . . it worked! Not only would Cade McNamara never have attempted that throw (he would have been sacked), he wouldn’t have the arm strength to get the ball there. But it does have downsides, such as when a completely covered Blake Corum in the flat gets targeted on a rollout despite about 2.5 Nittany Lions standing between McCarthy and Corum. That ended in the ugliest play of the day, a deflected pass that turned into a touchdown for linebacker Curtis Jacobs. You can live with those mistakes when the opposing offense can’t do jack squat, but against an explosive offense like Ohio State, McCarthy can’t try to be Superman. He had a decent game overall (17/24, 145 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT; 7 carries for 57 yards), but it was pretty forgettable except for the fact that Michigan won by a landslide.

Michigan stepped it up on defense. I wasn’t too worried about Penn State’s passing game, but their run game made me wonder. Having a quarterback who can run a little bit is always a bit of an equalizer, and I like freshman running back Nick Singleton, whom Michigan recruited. He’s impressed me with his ability to adjust to college schemes, whereas in high school he just ran sweep left and sweep right for touchdown after touchdown (I’m oversimplifying). But Singleton had just 6 carries for 19 yards. Clifford’s lone big run came on a nice fake where everyone except Michael Barrett – who was being blocked – went for the running back. Otherwise, PSU’s receiving targets were blanketed. Michigan did a nice job of switching up coverages and keeping Clifford guessing. The pass rush only resulted in 2 sacks, but Clifford was never able to get comfortable, either. He probably had PTSD from getting hammered in 2021 by Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

On to Michigan State. Both Michigan and Michigan State have a bye next week in the lead-up to the Paul Bunyan game. The Spartans beat Wisconsin 34-28, but it took overtime to do it. On paper Michigan is clearly the favorite, but anything can happen in these bitter rivalry games.

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