First-half observations: UM defense struggles again, down 10 points to Penn State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins scores a touchdown in the first quarter against Penn State on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

Ann Arbor — Michigan came into its sixth game of the season at 0-0. That’s the approach the Wolverines have taken since last week as a way to hit the reset button each week.

The Wolverines snapped their three-game losing streak with a triple-overtime game at Rutgers a week ago and are now trailing, 17-7 at halftime against winless Penn State. Michigan has yet to win at home this season.

Penn State opened the game with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive as Keyvone Lee scored on a six-yard run. The Nittany Lions missed a chance to expand the lead when they missed a 49-yard field goal.

Michigan finally got on the board with a two-yard run by Hassan Haskins, who opened the drive with a 59-yard run to the Penn State 9-yard line.

Just before the end of the half, the Nittany Lions took advantage of Mike Sainristil’s punt return fumble and converted the turnover to a field goal for the final score of the half.

McNamara takes over

Not surprisingly, Cade McNamara made his first start at quarterback for Michigan, but while leading the Wolverines to their only touchdown drive of the first half, was hurt and briefly left the game.

McNamara was 5-of-8 for 31 yards and had one carry for three yards and that’s apparently when he was injured. He came off the field favoring his right shoulder and just before the end of the first quarter ran off the field with a medical staffer.

Joe Milton, the Wolverines’ starter the first five games, came in for two series before McNamara returned to the game with 3:32 left in the half.

Playing from behind – again

Michigan has now been outscored, 117-66, in the first half this season and took the 17-7 deficit to the locker room.

This hasn’t been so much about the offense performing unevenly, which it has, but this is all on the defense. Again.

Michigan entered the game ranked 91st in total defense, yielding an average 437.8 yards a game, and despite the return of defensive end Kwity Paye, the defense struggled mightily. It gave up big plays, like a 20-yard pass completion in the first series of the game, another 22-yard completion, and quarterback Sean Clifford’s 28-yard touchdown run.

Penn State had 241 yards in the first half, including 131 rushing (5.5 per carry), 15 first downs and was 3-of-8 on third down.

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @achengelis