Harbaugh lauds 'gutty' performance by McNamara, but Michigan falls to Penn State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The buzz all week had been about quarterback Cade McNamara and the boost he gave the Michigan offense in the triple-overtime victory at Rutgers.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh played coy when asked to name a starter entering the Penn State game on Saturday, but it was clear McNamara would get the nod. Joe Milton had started the first five games for the Wolverines, but McNamara took over in Game 6 and looked comfortable leading the offense.

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara looks for an open man in the fourth quarter.

But late in the first quarter as he was leading a scoring drive, McNamara rushed for 3 yards to the Penn State 2-yard line and Hassan Haskins scored the next play to tie the score. But McNamara came off the field gesturing to his right shoulder and left at the end of the quarter for the locker room with a member of the medical staff.

McNamara would return late in the first half but in the end, couldn’t give Michigan enough of a lift as Penn State got its first win of the season, 27-17, at Michigan Stadium. He finished 12-of-25 for 91 yards.

“It was a gritty performance by him,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of McNamara. “That’s a tough kid. A lot of respect for Cade coming back. Very gutty. The shoulder tightened up as the game went on.”

Milton spelled McNamara late in the fourth quarter during Michigan’s final series.

“Cade, really gutty performance to come back, but the shoulder did start to tighten up. I could see it,” Harbaugh said. “He was doing everything he could to stay in the game. I just felt like it was tightening up and felt like going to Joe was the best option for us. I can tell you this, Cade was doing everything he possibly could to rally the team and to play on. The shoulder was tightening up on him, so that was the reasons.”

Harbaugh pointed to the first half and Michigan’s inability to extend drives. In the first series of the game, Hassan Haskins converted on third and 1 with a three-yard run, but then on 3rd and 3 Haskins gained only 1 yard and on fourth and 2 McNamara threw incomplete. In the second quarter, Haskins lost a yard on third and 2, and in a third-and-7 situation, Milton threw incomplete. This was a trend not exclusive to the first half.

“Hassan Haskins, another football player type of performance from him,” Harbaugh said of Haskins, who finished with 101 yards on 17 carries and had two touchdowns.  “In key situations in the first half we weren’t able to extend the drives. We had some third-and-short opportunities, and Penn State was able to convert their third and shorts. We weren’t (able to get the stop) at the critical time and not getting the first down to sustain the drive offensively. That was a big part of the game.”

Michigan had had three different offensive line starting lineups and went with the same one it started with at Rutgers. But right guard Zak Zinter left the game after apparently aggravating a thumb injury from a week earlier. Left guard Chuck Filiaga moved to right guard, and Trevor Keegan came in at left guard.

“He was also trying to play through that,” Harbaugh said of Zinter.

Injury update

Defensive end Kwity Paye, who had been out since late in the Indiana game, returned to start against Penn State. Left tackle Ryan Hayes was in uniform for the first time in three weeks but didn't play.

Several starters missed the game — receiver Giles Jackson did not play and linebacker Cam McGrone, who left the Rutgers game on a motorized card, also was not available. Center Andrew Vastardis missed his second game with an undisclosed injury and right tackle Jalen Mayfield, who is dealing with a high ankle sprain, has now been out four games. Kicker Quinn Nordin has a undisclosed injury and did not play.

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis