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Penn State Football: No. 4 Michigan Walks Past Nittany Lions 49-10

by on September 24, 2016 8:40 PM

Penn State's crippled linebacker unit was just one of many issues on Saturday afternoon as the Nittany Lions fell 49-10 to the No. 4 ranked Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

Back-to-back holding calls doomed Penn State's opening drive as the Nittany Lions faced a punt from the back of the end zone just 1:58 into regulation. Short drives and little time off the clock doomed Penn State all day as nine of the Nittany Lions' 11 drives lasted less than 2:30 as Michigan ground a depleted defense into the ground on Saturday.

A long return by Jabrill Peppers set Michigan up deep in Penn State territory and a fourth down run from the goal line by Khalid Hill put the hosts up 7-0 with 9:51 to go in the first quarter.

Penn State responded with a 29-yard drive but a fourth-and-five conversion attempt at the Michigan 46 came up short giving the Wolverines the ball yet again in great field position. It took the No. 4 ranked team just 3:30 to make the most of the opportunity as De'Veon Smith punched in a two-yard carry to make it 14-0.

The Nittany Lions would gain just 28 yards over the next four drives as Michigan responded with three scoring drives of 54, 64 and 80 yards in the first half to make it a 28-0 margin at the break. Wilton Speight had an effective half under center going 15-of-24 for 152 yards and a touchdown pass to Devin Asiasi from three yards out to cap off the 64-yard drive.

While Penn State was unlikely to win Saturday's contest regardless, the Nittany Lions played Saturday's game without all three starting linebackers. Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell missing the game with a hand and leg injury respectively while middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White missed his first full game after a season-ending injury suffered against Temple.

In their place stood sophomores Manny Bowen and Jake Cooper while Brandon Smith made his first ever start at middle linebacker. Smith was ejected midway through the game following targeting call and was replaced by Jan Johnson, who also left the game with a season-ending injury according to coach James Franklin following the game.

The second half was effectively more of the same although Penn State opened with a defensive stop before marching 71-yards in eight plays. The Nittany Lions opting for a field goal from just six feet out down 28-0 with 11:31 to go in the third quarter.

“That was not a good decision on my part,” Franklin said after the game. “Second-guessed ourselves there and thought maybe we should go for a touchdown, but it’s still a lot of time left in the game. And I didn’t want to take the penalty and take us out of the situation of going for a touchdown. But then (we) had a discussion and everybody felt like we needed to take the points at that point. If you’re going to kick the field goal, obviously should’ve taken the penalty and kicked the field goal. I second-guessed myself there going for a touchdown to try to get back in the game.”

After failing to score on the opening two drives of the final 30 minutes of play, Michigan rattled off three long scoring campaigns against Penn State's depleted defense to cap off the afternoon. Chris Godwin's 8-yard reception from Trace McSorley gave Penn State its first touchdown of the day after a 13-play drive that was largely aided by two pass interference calls.

By the game's end Penn State was down two more linebackers and put together a 199-yard offensive performance that included 136 from star running back Saquon Barkley who led the Nittany Lions in both rushing and receiving on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions return home to face Minnesota and then Maryland in a key two week span before the bye. Penn State falls to 2-2 on the year.


Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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