New attitude makes Wolverines road warriors
Ann Arbor – A year ago it seemed unthinkable Michigan would win a close game on the road, let alone win a close game.
The Wolverines were 3-7 in regular-season road games the last two seasons, including 1-4 last year.
But as they prepare to play their second straight road game when they travel to Penn State for Saturday's noon kickoff, the Wolverines are unbeaten in Big Ten road games. They needed a goal-line stop to win at Minnesota, 27-23, and a fourth-down pass breakup by Delano Hill preserved a 48-41 double-overtime victory at Indiana last weekend.
Michigan has only one road loss this season and it was in the opener at Utah.
"The attitude," Michigan receiver Jehu Chesson said when asked what's changed to allow the Wolverines to win on the road. "You can chalk up a scheme, you can chalk up a lot of different things, but I think our attitude is much different. Guys are believing.
"After the Minnesota game, coach (Jim) Harbaugh told us that now that we've been in a close game, and have won a close game, we now know what it's like to win a close game, so let's repeat this feeling. That's kind of what he told us at halftime (at Indiana), so we need to try to get ahead and stay ahead."
Jordan Howard rushed for 238 yards and gave Indiana the early overtime lead, before Michigan responded with two touchdowns and the play by Hill to end the game.
"We have to have to say, 'OK, you know what? They just scored and we have to come up and put six on the board and do whatever is necessary to win the game," Chesson said of the IU finish. "It's easy to always say, 'Yeah, you can do it,' when you've never done it before. But now that you've done it before, you're familiar with the feeling, you can proceed with how you think about your actions."
Penn State, which was off last weekend, has won the last three against Michigan at Beaver Stadium, including a 43-40 victory in four overtimes in 2013. The Nittany Lions feature the nation's second-ranked pass defense and the nation's sack leader, Ryan Nassib, a former walk-on, who has 15.5 this season. He also leads the country in tackles for loss with 19.5 and forced fumbles with six.
Center Graham Glasgow's preference is a blowout victory, like the three straight shutouts Michigan had in the first half of the season, but winning close games on the road can be galvanizing. He said working with Harbaugh and his staff has been the difference.
"I think that really goes back to all the work we put into the offseason and camp and spring ball," Glasgow said. "We went through too much to lose those close games. We practiced too hard, and our coaches put too much into it and we put too much into it to lose a close game like that. Just finding a way to win is what we've been trying to do."