Highs and Lows: Penn State 28 - Michigan 21
What were the best and worst moments from Penn State's 28-21 win against Michigan in Saturday night's White Out conditions at Beaver Stadium? We make our picks, here:
PLAYER OF THE GAME This one isn’t an especially easy category to fill for either side, but Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler and his 108 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions, plus a critical third-and-3 conversion to seal the game, gets the nod.
PLAY OF THE GAME Fourth down, goal to go, and Michigan ball with the game on the line against a deflated Penn State defense that needed a stop. And lo and behold, the Nittany Lions did, though with the help of this week’s installment of the “worst drop” category. Letting the suspense play out as long as possible, a near-sack for Yetur Gross-Matos on Shea Patterson went unfounded, and the Michigan quarterback targeted Ronnie Bell with position in the end zone. Though the ball hit Bell in the hands, it dropped to the turf and effectively ended Michigan’s opportunity to come all the way back against Penn State.
BEST PASS Sean Clifford’s first-quarter connection with Jahan Dotson along Penn State’s sideline was a thing of beauty. The pass play was good for 37 yards and primed the Nittany Lions for their first score of the night, which was capped with what might also be considered a best pass candidate in the form of a 17-yard teardrop to Pat Freiermuth soon after.
BEST RUN Ricky Slade found a path wider than the Red Sea to run through on his first carry of the game late in the first quarter, and the Nittany Lion running back made the most of it, splitting linebackers Khaleke Hudson and Jordan Glasgow. The much-maligned tailback raced into Michigan territory, made a cut before he could be dragged down, and picked up an extra 10 yards in the process. The carry was good for 44 yards and a prime, fringe red zone opportunity for the Nittany Lions.
WORST DROP The touchdown was Ronnie Bell’s to make. Faced with a fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Michigan trailing 28-21 in the fourth quarter with just over 2-minutes to play, the Wolverine receiver couldn’t reel in Patterson’s pass in the end zone, letting it slip through his hands and drop to the Beaver Stadium turf. The snafu was a major boon to the Nittany Lions, who were reeling throughout the fourth quarter.
BEST SACK Penn State came close frequently through the course of the first half, but it took a Garrett Taylor zone blitz early in the third quarter to finally get home on Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson. The play, good for a 7-yard loss, forced a Michigan punt with 9:22 remaining in the third quarter.
BEST HIT Micah Parsons’ first shot at Patterson wasn’t wasted. The Michigan quarterback attempted a scramble to the sidelines on the Wolverines’ second play from scrimmage, but wasn’t quick enough to avoid the wrath of Parsons.
BEST EFFORT Suffering from a lack of offensive momentum to start the second half, Dan Chisena helped create some for the Nittany Lions with his punt coverage tackle on Michigan return man Donovan Peoples-Jones. A monster 60-yard punt from Blake Gillikin helped flip field position, then Chisena did the rest by sending Peoples-Jones backward another six yards to Michigan’s 10-yard line.
BEST RETURN It was oh-so-close for Hamler in this category, but ’twas not to be. Opening the second half with the ball, the redshirt sophomore burst through a hole along the left hash and found himself in the clear for an untouched trip into the end zone. Multiple penalties, including a hold on Jonathan Sutherland, pulled the ball back to Penn State’s 45-yard line, though.
BEST DECISION Penn State wins the toss and Penn State defers its choice until the second half. This has been a winning game plan for the Nittany Lions and their defense all season, and the same was true Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. Before the first snap, the Wolverines spent a timeout and, though the Nittany Lions allowed one first down to move toward midfield, they forced a punt soon after, setting the tone early that Michigan would struggle to move the ball in the first half.
WORST DECISION Penn State simply could not get out of its offensive rut after taking a 21-0 lead, frequently running on first and second down to set up third-and-longs that it couldn’t convert. Appearing to be completely confused by Michigan’s pre-snap shifts on the defensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions only recovered momentarily in pulling off a 53-yard touchdown pass to Hamler.
MOST TELLING MOMENT Hamler had to be helped off the field by Penn State’s medical staff following his converted third down to seal the game, but no one on the Nittany Lions’ sideline or in the student section let him get to the sideline before expressing their appreciation for his effort. The most electric player on the field Saturday night, Hamler was the difference in the Nittany Lions’ win.