Observations on the loss to Penn State, 40-43!
Penn State gained five red zones, and converted all five for 31 points. Our offense gained two red zones for 10 points. In overtime, the Nittany Lions scored a TD in their only red zone while we could only manage 3 points in one overtime red zone. Our offense gave us a 10 point 4th quarter lead that the defense couldn't protect. Penn State gained 14 points off 3 Wolverine turnovers by Gardner, and the Wolverines gained 10 points off 3 Nittany Lion Turnovers.
Offense was bad, but helped us in a second half comeback; however, it faltered in overtime. We gained 389 yards in 83 plays, 21 first downs, and were only 4 of 18 in 3rd down conversions. We had a 12 minute time of possession advantage, but couldn't fully capitalize on it due to turnovers. We gained only 149 yards on the ground in 54 attempts, 2.76 yards per carry; Fitz Touissaint had 27 carries for 27 yards. Devin Gardner was 15 of 28 for 240 yards, 3 TDs, 2 interceptions and a fumble for 3 turnovers; he had 24 carries for 121 yards on the ground. Devin Funchess had 4 catches for 112 yards and 2 TDs. Jeremy Gallon had 7 catches for 95 yards and a TD. Our offense had 11 plays that were negative in tackles for loss or sacks plus 3 turnovers. We were forced into 6 punts, 3 turnovers, and 2 missed field goals. Glen Carson and Mike Hull had 10 tackles each for Penn State; Dequan Jones had 9 tackles, Nyeem Wartman had 8 tackles, C.J. Olaniyan had 8 tackles including 3 sacks plus two tipped passes.
Defense lost this one when they couldn't protect the lead on two occasions late in the 4th quarter, and in overtime. It was embarassing how some of our cornerbacks jumped at the wrong time when they were in position to break up a pass or intercept it on the final drive. James Ross had 10 tackles including one for loss and a forced fumble, Desmond Morgan had 8, and Joe Bolden got 6. Ramon Taylor and Jarrod Wilson had 5 tackles each and both picked interceptions, and Frank Clark got 2 sacks plus 2 fumble recoveries, one for a TD with the other in overtime. In the end, freshman quarterback, Christian Hackenburg, led the Nittany Lions to the win with 23 of 44 for 305 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions; Hackenburg scored the tieing TD with 27 seconds to go in the game to send it to overtime after driving his team 75 yards in 23 seconds. The Penn State offense rolled up 390 yards in 89 plays, 24 first downs, and were 3 of 16 on 3rd down, but 2 of 3 on 4th down conversions. Bill Belton waltzed in with the game winning TD in overtime; he had 26 carries for 86 yards. We had zero rushing TDs while the Nittany Lions punched in two. Most Michigan fans agree that our defensive line isn't getting the job done.
Brendon Gibbons hit 4 of 7 field goals; he had three chances to win the game, two in overtime, but missed two and had the other blocked. It ended up being the difference. Sam Ficken was 3 of 5 for Penn State.
Wolverine fans must consider why we are playing poorly. Al Borges and Fred Jackson did not call a great game as offensive coordinators; they only played to win by field goal in overtime. Penn State deserved to win, they played harder, and certainly outcoached our staff in preparation for this game as well as in overtime. The 4th down call by O'Brien was very gutsy.
This team could finish 6-6, 7-5 or maybe 8-4, but I don't see this team beating Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern or Nebraska, and it could also be tested by either Indiana or Iowa. We are really not playing like what we remember as "Michigan Football." There is not the toughness, grit, composure or other attributes we remember from our championship teams of old. We don't appear to be close to a championship team; our defensive line showed signs of toughness early in the 3rd quarter, but didn't finish the game the same way. I'm as disappointed as any Wolverine fan with the loss, but more disappointed with the lack of toughness from our players at the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line also lacks toughness just as much as the defensive line; we are losing games right at the point of attack.
One of the big differences in this game was Bill O'Brien, Penn State's head coach firmly in control of everything especially on offense making critical decisions that instilled confidence in his players because he showed confidence in them.