Michigan defensive tackle Carlo Kemp on facing Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor – They are not mirror images, but Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley have plenty in common – at least according to the opposing coaches.
Both are dangerous with their arms and legs and can make life difficult for defensive coordinators.
They will be leading their teams when No. 5 Michigan (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) faces No. 14 Penn State (6-2, 3-2) Saturday at Michigan Stadium in an important East Division game. Michigan won the last meeting here in 2016, 49-10, and Penn State responded last season with a 42-13 victory at Beaver Stadium.
In the game against Michigan last season, McSorley, one of Penn State’s most distinguished quarterbacks, accounted for four touchdowns, including three rushing. He threw for 282 yards and rushed for 76. This season, without running back Saquon Barkley in the backfield, McSorley has carried the ball more. He has rushed for 617 yards and a team-best nine rushing touchdowns, and he has completed 53 percent of his passes, averages 203.5 yards a game and has 12 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Patterson is ranked 18th nationally in completion percentage (67.2 percent) and has thrown for 1,523 yards and 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. He also has 40 carries for 145 yards, including an 81-yarder against Wisconsin, and one touchdown.
He is a big reason Michigan has won seven straight and is atop the East Division standings.
“They were able to go out and get an experienced quarterback, so they got a guy who has played a lot of football,” Penn State coach James Franklin said this week of Patterson. “He's been in big moments, those types of things. He's a guy that I would probably describe a lot like Trace. You watch him, and he's able to make plays from the pocket, from outside the pocket, and also able to make plays with his feet.
“He's already played a lot of football. They were able to bring a guy into their program that had a lot of experience already, and I think has really helped them. So he's added another dimension to their offense, and I would describe him in a lot of ways like Trace.”
McSorley has Michigan’s attention, and not just because of his four-touchdown performance in the rout last year. The 6-foot, 201-pound senior needs three yards 9,000 in his career and two touchdowns for 100 for which he’s been responsible. McSorley also is 121 yards shy of the Penn State career quarterback rushing record of 1,637 yards, held by Michael Robinson (2002-05).
He has Penn State career records for passing yards (8,997), 300-yard passing games (10), 200-yard passing games (26), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (27), passing touchdowns (71), and total offense (10,513). McSorley also currently holds Penn State’s career passing efficiency (147.1) record. This season, McSorley is responsible for 21 of Penn State’s 42 offensive touchdowns.
Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich described McSorley as similar to Patterson in their playmaking ability.
“The dude knows how to win,” he said of McSorley.
It is no secret that Michigan defenses have had difficulties with running quarterbacks. McSorley did have a “lower leg” issue last week against Iowa and returned to the game, but slowed by injury or not, he has the Wolverines' attention.
"Make sure you do your job and not try to do too much," defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. "If you have the quarterback, make sure you have the quarterback -- because if you don't, you'll be looking at him going that way.”
Kemp turned his head to the right as he watched an imaginary McSorley getting by him. That is something the defensive players have been preparing for this week.
"He's a really good player," Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown said. "He means everything to them. He's a highly-competitive guy. He has a really solid understanding. They do a lot of freeze cadence, so you'll see him look over changing plays, doing those things.
"He has a really good handle of what he's supposed to do and getting his guys in the right places and taking it into his own hands when it's important."
Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the UM-Penn State and MSU-Maryland games. The Detroit News, The Detroit News
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this week praised the Penn State defensive line.
“It's one of the best we've faced,” he said.
Sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos has 12.5 TFL, six sacks and five quarterback hurries -- all team-highs.
The Nittany Lions rank ninth in the Big Ten in rushing defense, but are first in sacks (28) and tackles for loss (65). Michigan’s offense is feeling greater confidence since running for 183 yards against Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense two weeks ago. That’s partly a product of an improved offensive line, Patterson and running back Karan Higdon.
Michigan’s defense is ranked No. 1 nationally and has held seven of eight opponents to their lowest yardage totals of the season. Before Penn State’s game against Iowa last week, Franklin told reporters that the Hawkeyes’ defensive line was “by far the best front we’ve faced in two years.”
Franklin was asked this week about Iowa’s line compared to Michigan’s.
“I think they're really good,” Franklin said. “I think the difference is with Iowa they were really controlling the game on the defensive side of the ball with their D-line. They put a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure on their D-line.
“Where Michigan, obviously their personnel is impressive. (Rashan) Gary, we all know about him. The defensive end (Winovich), we know about him, the middle linebacker (Devin Bush)."
Franklin is also impressed by Michigan starting cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long.
"They're able to put those guys on an island and play press man coverage all the time," Franklin said.
Michigan, coming off a bye last Saturday, held Michigan State to 94 yards and 0-for-12 on third down.
“You're fighting for every yard you could get,” Franklin said. “That's how I would describe them. Don (Brown) as a defensive coordinator and their defense, I would describe them as greedy. They want to take everything away."
Michigan vs. Penn State
Kickoff: 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor
TV/radio: ESPN/WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 7-1, 5-0 Big Ten; Penn State 6-2, 3-2
Line: Michigan by 10.5