Observations on the win over Penn State, 17-10

1-Michigan converts two red zones for 10 points while Penn State converts its only red zone late in the first half for 3 points. No points off turnover, and one turnover for Penn State. The zero turnovers by Michigan was the key factor in this one, and contributes to a 7 minute time of possession advantage (all in the 2nd half) that leads us to 7 more offensive plays.

2-Henne was 15 of 30 for 196 yards, 2 sacks and 1 TD to Arrington. Arrington had 5 catches for 83 yards, Butler 3 catches for 16 and Breaston 5 catches for 79. Massey missed a sure TD catch, but has one catch for 10 yards.

3-Hart had 26 carries for 112 yards and one TD plus one catch for 8 yards. Henne scrambled for 5 yards so 33 yards net for the 1st half. We had 16 first downs and 312 total yards on 63 plays with 7 of 16 in 3rd down conversions. Not a great offensive day, but good enough to win with our stellar defense and no turnovers.

4-Defense was solid with 7 sacks! Morrelli and Clark were both knocked out of the game. Their quarterbacks were 17 of 31 for 200 yards. Hunt had 13 carries for 33 yards, and 5 catches for 83 yards and a 43 yard TD with 3 minutes to go to make it close. Williams had 6 catches for 67 yards. Butler and Norwood had 3 short catches each for 48 yards (6 catches). They had 11 first downs (only 1 rushing), -14 yards rushing and 184 yards in total offense in 56 plays. We forced them into 7 punts, and they were only 5 of 16 in 3rd and 4th down conversions. Burgess, Woodley and Adams had 5 tackles each. Branch, Harris and Mundy had 4 tackles each. Woodley had two sacks, 3 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Biggs also had 2 sacks, Jamison, Crable and Taylor had one each. Branch's hit on Morelli caused a concussion, and knocked him from the game. Crable, Hall and Adams had pass deflections; Adams should have been a pick.

5-Special teams played well! Rivas hit his field goal, the punting was adequate as we were forced into 8 punts with Ryan putting one inside the 20 with one touchback; our average was only 36 yards a punt though. Kickoff coverage was excellent after the opening kickoff that resulted in a missed field goal on their part. Breaston didn't do much on punt or kickoff returns, but he also didn't hurt us with any turnovers. The Nittany Lions did cover well and hit him hard. We took 6 penalties for 50 yards, and the most costly was the one on Trent on the 3rd and 18 from the Penn State 5 yard line with 3 minutes to go in the half giving them an automatic first down. This propelled them to a red zone, 3 points, confidence and momentum; however they couldn't overcome our defense in the second half.

6-Nothing special on player participation! Tyler Ecker and Mario Manningham didn't play as expected, and Butler got a lot of action while Massey started at tight end. Tabb did come in behind Breaston at flanker, and Mathews backed up Arrington. Ross Ryan was back and punted, but didn't kick off. It was also good to see Will Paul see some action at blocking back.

7-Brent Musberger is a complete joke, and should retire from announcing. His comment on Branch was ridiculous; it was simply a good, solid hit, and unfortunately for Morelli, Branch is a locomotive coming at you at 330 pounds with speed. He also made reference to the USC Trojans coming back against Arizona State without crediting the Sun Devils for their effort. He should take his one-side opinions elsewhere.

8-I don't see us losing any more games, and we'll most likely force a Big Ten title showdown in Columbus with the winner going to the BCS title game on January 8th in the Fiesta Bowl against USC or Big East Champ, Louisville or West Virginia. If we can sack Troy Smith and company, I think we can beat anyone.

Observations on the first half with Penn State, 10-3
1—Michigan converts one red zone for 3 points while Penn State converts its only red zone late in the first half for 3 points. No points off turnover, and one turnover for Penn State.

2—Henne is 10 of 18 for 127 yards and 1 TD to Arrington. Arrington has 3 catches for 67 yards, Butler 2 catches for 16 and Breaston 2 catches for 26. Massey missed a sure TD catch on our last drive, but has one catch for 10 yards.

3—Running game has been stopped cold! Hart has 28 yards on 10 carries and one catch for 8 yards. Henne scrambled for 5 yards so 33 yards net for the 1st half. We have 8 first downs and 160 total yards on 29 plays with 4 of 8 in 3rd down conversions.

4—Defense was solid with 4 sacks on Morelli! Morrelli is 10 of 17 for 109 yards while Hunt has 9 carries for 29 yards. Hunt also has 3 catches for 41 yards. Williams has 3 catches for 28 yards. They have 7 first downs, -10 yards rushing and 99 yards in total offense in 31 plays. A huge factor was the penalty by Trent on a 3rd and 19 from their 5 late in the first half which gave them an automatic first down; it gave them momentum for their drive that culminated in a red zone and 3 points. No penalty and we get the ball back with a time of possession advantage and a chance to go three scores up. Instead, we have no time of possession advantage and are only one score up. Burgess, Woodley and Adams have 4 tackles each. Woodley has two sacks, Biggs and Taylor have one each. Woodley also forced a fumble that bounced back in Morelli’s hands, it almost gave us a red zone at the 5.

5—Special teams gave us a good first half after the opening kickoff returned by Williams to the 50. We were solid on kickoffs after that, Rivas hit his field goal and Oluigbo forced a turnover on punt coverage and recovered the fumble. Each team has forced the other into 3 punts. Kelly booted a field goal, but also missed a field goal. I think Breaston needs to come up big for us in the second half to help with field position and time of possession.

6—Anything can happen in this one. Turnovers, running game and time of possession are the keys. The 4 penalties for 30 yards killed us in the first half; otherwise, we could be three scores up.

Penn State Preview

Penn State features the #3 rushing offense in the Big Ten and #20 nationally with standout running back Tony Hunt. They are netting 191.3 yards per game so part of their game plan is to control the football, and keep a time of possession advantage. Hunt is averaging over 114 yards per game, ranking him #3 in the Big Ten and #11 in the nation; he averages 126 yards per game in all-purpose yards and has been in the end zone 8 times which ranks him #6 in scoring. Their quarterback, Tony Morelli, is ranked #5 in the Big Ten in passing; he has thrown for nearly 206 yards per game. He is well protected as his line has only allowed 6 sacks in 6 games. His favorite target is Deon Butler who averages over 4 receptions per game and nearly 16 yards per reception. Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams are his two other main receivers. They are averaging nearly 407 yards of total offense per game. The game plan is obvious on our side: stop their run and stop Tony Hunt while blitzing and hurrying Morelli into mistakes. We must also take advantage of their poor execution in the red zone ranked #11 in the Big Ten.

On defense, the Nittany Lions boast another stellar, stingy defense led by Butkus Award winning linebacker Paul Poluszny; he and fellow linebacker, Dan Conner, average 8 tackles per game each. Sophomore Inside Linebacker, Sean Lee, averages over 6 tackles per game and Livonia's Defensive End Tim Shaw is another stellar defensive performer. Their line is solid with Detroiter Ed Johnson and All-Big Ten performer, Jay Alford; they have 7 sacks between them. Our offensive tackles and guards will have to play their best game to block these two for our rushing attack to go and to prevent sacks. They are ranked #14 nationally in net rushing allowing less than 80 yards per game. They'll be geared up to hold Hart and our rushing offense below 100 yards; they know this is the key to winning this game. We'll be faced with trying to exploit their pass defense without our best receiver, Mario Manningham; someone must "step up." Adrian Arrington, Steve Breaston, Greg Mathews and Carl Tabb are the top candidates. Our red zone offense must execute when we have our chances; their red zone defense is ranked #10 in the Big Ten.

On special teams, punter Jeremy Kapinos is ranked 29th nationally with a 42.24 average and Kevin Kelly is ranked #2 nationally in field goals (12 of 17) and #17 in scoring averaging 2 field goals per game. Kelly is perfect on PATs. Derrick Williams is an explosive, speedy returner averaging 9 yards per punt return and 20 yards per kickoff return; we'll have to work hard to contain him. Their special teams are solid which one can attribute to good coaching; they are a disciplined team ranked #2 in the Big Ten in penalties. As in most big games, turnover advantage and points off turnover will be a huge key!

This one will be a struggle, but we'll come out with a win! 24-14