'A lot of good things': Michigan offense shows signs of life in loss to Penn State
State College, Pa. — For the first time this season, Michigan’s offense looked like it had found consistency and a rhythm that had been lacking the first six games.
The Wolverines dominated statistically at Penn State, however, they could not pull off the upset and fell, 28-21, Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. Michigan had a chance to tie the score with just less than two minutes left but a dropped pass in the end zone on fourth down left them empty-handed.
It was the best overall performance this season by the Michigan offensive line and quarterback Shea Patterson. Freshman Zach Charbonnet ran hard and scored two touchdowns, and despite five drops in the first half, the receivers came through with big plays.
“I thought the offense did a lot of really good things tonight,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Offensive line pass protection was really good. I thought Shea had a really good night throwing the football and receivers making catches. Chipped away at the running game and got that going, as well. I thought the defense played really well in the second half. A lot of good things to learn from and grow from.”
Patterson was 24-of-41 for 276 yards and an interception, and he also had 12 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Charbonnet had 81 yards on 15 carries and scored twice. Nico Collins led the receivers with six catches for 89 yards, while Bell was second with five catches for 82.
Michigan outgained Penn State, 417-283. The Wolverines had 141 rushing yards with two backs getting the bulk of carries along with Patterson’s 12. Hassan Haskins had 13 for 28 yards, but Charbonnet was the primary back and seemed to get stronger in the second half with nine carries for 51 yards.
The offensive line was credited for much of the production.
“I thought they protected very well,” Harbaugh said. "I thought they were coming off the ball really well. Thought, especially there in the second half, they were grinding the run game and holes were opening up. I thought our line played really well.”
In the first half of the season, fumbles undermined the first season of new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ play-calling, but Patterson said he saw tremendous growth in the loss.
“I felt like we kind of found our groove a little bit, in the running game, the passing game and receivers making plays in open space and trusting everything. And the O line completely blocking their (butts) off allowed me to make plays down the field tonight.”
Michigan had two 75-yard scoring drives and a 65-yard drive.
“From an offensive line standpoint, I think we played one of our best games in the entire season as a whole,” center Cesar Ruiz said. “We studied our film. We knew the blitzes, we studied the blitzes. We studied each and every defensive lineman, linebackers, and we were able to get the one up on a lot of things. Protection was phenomenal today. Run game, we were moving people off the ball.”
Ruiz was asked if Patterson had gotten his swagger back.
“He always had it, but he was able to expose it a little more today,” Ruiz said.
Patterson took one sack and said he had plenty of time to work the offense.
“I felt safe back there, and I felt like I was in a rhythm pretty much all night,” Patterson said. “O line did a heck of a job. I felt like I had plenty of time. That opened up the running game. Zach Charbonnet had a good night on the ground. That allowed us to mix it up with getting our receivers on the perimeter to make plays.”
Still, the Wolverines came up short as they attempted to tie the score.
“On all the touchdown drives, we had a certain rhythm to us,” Patterson said. “That came from the defense stopping them and putting us in good field position. It was tough as hell that last drive, not coming up with it. It’s on to the next one, man.”