Game 546: No. 2 Nittany Lions Maul No. 19 Michigan, 42-13
State College, PA – Despite facing a vaunted Michigan defense allowing only 223 yards of offense per game, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley scored early and often leading the Lion offense for 506 yards to revenge a 49-10 loss a year ago and humble Michigan in Collegefootballfan.com’s Game 546, 42-13. Both players scored two and three times respectively on the ground, and both combined on a long pass for another score to lead the Lions during a charged up “white-out” this evening in Happy Valley.
After a confident Michigan deferred to kick the ball after winning the coin toss to put its defense on the field first, Barkley scored a 69-yard touchdown run taking a direct snap from center on only the second play from scrimmage. The next time the home team gained possession, the offense drove 78 yards with Barkley racing around the right end for a 15-yard score to re-ignite the charged-up crowd of 110,823 establishing a new attendance record at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions looked to be on track early to target my predicted final score of 28-0. It didn’t happen, but the result still shocked PSU Nay-Sayers and True-Blue fans alike!
Penn State’s next series resulted in its only turnover of the day as McSorely (17 for 26 passing, 282 yards, one TD, one Int; 11 carries for 76 yards, three TDs) put the ball right into the gut of DB David Long to start the Wolverines from their 41 heading into the second quarter. Michigan made the most of its new-found momentum as the huge crowd started to settle in after the initial shock of an unexpected 14-0 lead. QB John O’Korn led his team on a 59-yard drive with RB Karan Higdon taking it over from the one. However, the PAT missed the mark and U of M got within eight.
The Lions got as far as the Michigan 33 on its next series, but gave the ball over on downs. Big Blue continued to feed off Big Mo. A 23-yard pass to WR Kekoa Crawford put the visitors at the six. Ty Isaac took it over from there two plays later to now be within one. Had the PSU energy been drained after too much anticipation of a blow-out after two quick scores? In the words of Game Day’s Lee Corso who picked the Lions to win today when the show was hosted that morning near Beaver Stadium, “Not so fast, my friend.” Seventy-five yards after starting their next possession, McSorely added six more against this tough Wolverine defense with a three-yard TD run. The Nittany Lions’ lead at the half stood at 21-13.
Long way away
With a 7:30 pm kickoff, I met Guest Game Analysts and fellow tailgaters John Massimilla, his wife Kelle, and friend Ty at 1:30 to start our pre-game tailgate a little later than usual. We drove much further through our reserved yellow parking area than ever before. We ended up within a short distance to the State College Medical facility on the hill to our northeast. John couldn’t believe how far we parked this day from the stadium. It turned out to be combination of a little later start than usual for us and indicated that there was evidently a record crowd setting in. I joked to John that we parked so far away we might as well go see if Bucknell was playing at home in Lewisburg and we could be back on time for the late kickoff. They all know that Collegefootballfan.com would add a game 546 to game 545 within a day if it was possible. We’ve done it before.
Later on, as we started to work our way over to the stadium, we met up with friends Steve and Cari Dawson and Joe Rogers tailgating with some of their other friends from the Danville area where they live. At “Tailgate Party 409” (JoePa’s total wins) beyond the outfield fence beyond the PSU /State College Spikes baseball stadium, we met up with bunch of younger college fans from the Buffalo area in pursuit of the same goals we’ve been chasing all these years through our Game 546. They talked about how they’ve recently started out and get to a big game now at least once a year as they get busy with families and jobs and the like. They dressed appropriately for a PSU White-out with their jerseys and were already having a great time. We hope they enjoy all their upcoming adventures as much as we do – seeing great games and meeting a lot of other great college football fans along the way as we have.
Second half domination
In the second half, PSU’s first possession started from their 20. The came out firing on all cylinders just where they had left off. McSorely scored on a 13-yard run to extend the Lions’ lead by 15. As much as Michigan’s D came into this game with impressive credentials for shutting down opponents, PSU led the nation in scoring defense coming into this game allowing ten points per game. They held O’Korn to 16 of 28 passing for 166 yards. The Huntingdon, PA native (home of the alma mater, Juniata College) transferred from Houston to Michigan after HC Tim Herman moved WR Greg Ward Jr. from receiver to QB to run his offense. Penn State held the U of M running game to only 103 yards on the ground. They held them in check throughout the third.
Early in Q4, O’Korn, sacked seven times in this contest, fumbled on the next one and DT Robert Windsor recovered to put the Lions at Michigan’s 46. From 41 yards away, McSorley combined with Barkley who kept the ball in the air until he could gain control before he crossed the goal line having beaten two Wolverine defenders for a 35-14 lead. Michigan’s next drive ended in a sack on a fourth and eleven with PSU taking over at the Michigan 48. The student section started chanting, “We want Bama! We want Bama!” They still have Ohio State and Michigan State to contend with, but why not? Only a week ago, the national radio stations were talking like only the Buckeyes had a shot for the Big Ten playoff picture going into the CFP, maybe now they are paying closer attention.
The offense continued to roll. This drive ended with McSorely running it in from the nine diving and extending the ball over as he dove in from the one. Penn State was making their statement here, 42-13.
The defense fed off the crowd’s exuberance stopping Michigan with yet another sack on a fourth and 13. Michigan’s O has not been effective since the beginning of the year. The defense, overwhelmed today, basically kept them in the hunt for the CFP. This game 546, despite the two Michigan scores in the second, showed total domination by Penn State over a major Big Ten East rival. The Lions hope to keep the momentum flowing into the next two critical games to take the Big Ten East this season.
Big games ahead
Penn State (7-0, 4-0) travels to Columbus next weekend for a showdown with No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0). The Buckeyes will be the ones supposedly looking for revenge this time. Penn State knocked them out of the Big Ten East championship with a 24-21 win we witnessed last season in an atmosphere at Beaver Stadium like the one there this night. PSU then took the conference championship with its exciting come from behind 38-31 win over Wisconsin. On the other hand, Penn State may be the team looking to extract revenge on the Buckeyes as well. After winning the Big Ten Championship, it was Ohio State that went into the CFP losing in lackluster fashion,31-0, to eventual national champ, Clemson. PSU will travel the following weekend to East Lansing to take on No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 4-0).
Collegefootballfan.com heads to our first game ever at Wake Forest with good friends Jim Harton (WFU alum) and George Lazarides of Johns Hopkins fame. Hopefully the 12:20 kick-off will allow us to catch a major portion of the PSU-OSU game on TV somewhere after 3:30. Wake (4-3, 1-3) will be hosting Louisville (5-3, 2-3) with last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at QB. With Penn State’s Saquon Barkley a leading Heisman candidate this season, we may possibly have the distinction of attending two games on consecutive weekends played by Heisman Trophy winners in one season. How many fans can claim that?
Michigan gets a breather next weekend when they host Rutgers. Though the Scarlett Knights defeated Illinois and Purdue the last two weeks, don’t think this will continue in The Big House. You could put Illinois and Purdue on the field at the same time and they will still be nowhere as good as Michigan’s defense. Not only will Jim Harbaugh be looking for some style points by running up a score, but he likes New Jersey as a primary recruiting territory. He will be looking to embarrass the Knights. On top of that, RU HC Chris Ash came from Ohio State to build the new RU program. Look out!
Points After Tailgating
Steve, Cari, and Joe looked for extra tickets and never made it to the game. The asking price they reported at Beaver Stadium shot up to $500/each. A lesson in supply and demand. When 110, 823 people have seats already paid for and are in attendance, you’re going to pay. Good luck with that next weekend at The Horse Shoe.
PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton became McSorely’s go-to guy in critical passing situations. He gathered in six passes for 115 yards. He had defenders beaten on a slant on several key plays.
LB Jason Cabinda led all tacklers with 13 in this game. PSU LBs were keys to defeating Ohio State last year after all returning from injuries.