Michigan raced out to a 28-0 lead in the first half and never looked back, using a powerful rushing attack to lead the way to a 49-10 win over Penn State to open Big Ten play.
Michigan (4-0, 1-0) ran for 329 yards, getting 107 and a touchdown from De'Veon Smith, and 82 and two scores from Karan Higdon to power the efficient effort.
Penn State (2-2, 0-1) had trouble getting its offense going early on. It was held to under 20 yards until its last drive before halftime when a screen pass to Saquan Barkley got PSU into Michigan territory. Barkley was the only real solid performer for the Nittany Lions offense, rushing for 59 yards and hauling in five receptions for 77. Starting quarterback Trace McSorley was 16-for-27 through the air for 120 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Wilton Speight wasn't great, but he didn't have to be. The Wolverines junior quarterback was solid, going 21-for-34 through the air with 189 yards and a touchdown.
The Wolverines will face their biggest test of the season when Wisconsin comes to Ann Arbor fresh off today's big win against Michigan State.
Wolverine D and O combine for exclamation point
Mike McCray picked off Trace McSorley near midfield and brought the ball to the Penn State 31 where Ty Isaac ripped off a 25-yard run to get inside the 10-yard line. With quarterback John O'Korn now in the game, Isaac took two more carries, finishing off the drive with a three-yard score that pushes Michigan's lead to 49-10 with 2:08 to play.
Michigan not done yet
Karan Higdon capped off a huge day for the Michigan running game with a 40-yard touchdown run that puts the Wolverines up, 42-10, with 6:18 left to play at The Big House.
The maize and blue have piled up 258 yards on the ground today. Higdon has accounted for 82 and two touchdowns on nine carries.
The Wolverines went 76 yards on nine plays.
Penn State finds the end zone
Two pass interferences help Penn State get inside the Michigan 10 where it was able to find the end zone for the first time today on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Charles Godwin.
Michigan's lead has been cut to 35-10 with 11:22 remaining.
The Nittany Lions went 75 yards on 13 plays.
Running game makes its mark
Chris Evans punctuated a dominant drive from the Michigan offensive line and running backs with a three-yard touchdown run that brings the Wolverines lead to 35-3 with 2:42 left to play in the third quarter.
The running game accounted for all 80 yards on the drive.
After the Michigan defense forced a three-and-out and Penn State coach James Franklin seemed to wave the white flag by punting on fourth-and-one near midfield, Evans flipped field position immediately with a 37-yard scamper into PSU territory. Michigan rushed eight times with four different backs on the drive, marching their way down the field via the run. The Wolverines attempted just one pass. It was on the second play and was incomplete.
Michigan stalls in Penn State territory
De'Veon Smith reeled off a 30-yard run into Penn State territory after the Wolverines started the drive at their own 14. On fourth-and-four from the Penn State 28, De'Veon Smith got blown up quickly on a designed catch-and-run that gives the ball back to the Nittany Lions.
Penn State gets on the board
The Wolverines defense did a bit of bending on its first series of the second half, but it didn't break, holding Penn State to a 21-yard field goal to cut into the Michigan lead at 28-3 with 11:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Saquan Barkley reeled off a 33-yard run to start the first possession of the second half for Penn State and Channing Stribling was called for pass interference to move the Nittany Lions to the Michigan 26. PSU moved into the red zone for the first time today when Trace McSorley found Barkley for a 19-yard gain inside the 10.
Wolverines go three-and-out to start second half
Michigan came out of the locker room looking a bit flat, as Jake Butt bobbled the ball on a first down screen pass and Wilton Speight threw a ball over the head of a wide open Grant Perry on the outside.
Penn State will start its first possession of the second at its own 28
Halftime: Michigan 28, Penn State 0
Penn State completed a 30-yard screen pass to Saquan Barkley on the first play of a drive that started at its own 25 with 46 seconds to play before the break. The Michigan defense stiffened once again, however, with a big sack from Mo Hurst killing the Nittany Lions drive on third down.
Here's a look at just how dominant of a first half Michigan had on both sides of the ball:
1st half stats
Rush Yards: UM 108, PSU -7
Pass Yards: UM 152, PSU 57
1st downs: UM 7, PSU 2
Sacks: UM 4, PSU 0
Higdon punctuates drive with TD
After another fourth down conversion and a Wilton Speight scramble powered the Wolverines to a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Karan Higdon.
It's now 28-0, the Wolverines lead, with 46 seconds to play until the half.
Michigan ran the ball on the first four plays of a drive that started at its own 20 after another Penn State punt. Completions of 16 and 18 yards to Grant Perry and Jehu Chesson gave the Wolverines another prime chance to build on their lead. Speight eluded the rush and was able to find Chesson in the end zone, but a holding call brought the play back. On third-and-21, Chris Evans picked up 14 on a screen pass. Instead of opting for a 41-yard field goal attempt, Michigan went for it, and Speight stumbled his way to a nine-yard gain. A completion to Jake Butt inside the five set up the touchdown.
Wolverines can't convert on fourth down
The Michigan defense forced another three-and-out and gave the ball back to its offense at its own 29. The offense was able to march into Penn State territory before stalling for the first time today when Jehu Chesson dropped a ball on fourth-and-two to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions at their own 39.
Questionable call benefits Wolverines
Michigan benefitted from a questionable targeting call on Penn State when Wilton Speight found tight end Devin Asiasi for a four-yard score on third down to push the lead to 21-0 with 14:09 to play in the second quarter.
After the defense forced a three-and-out that was punctuated by a third down sack from Chase Winovich, De'Veon Smith took the first down carry from the Michigan 36 and flipped the field with a 39-yard run down to the PSU 25. After runs by Karan Higdon and Eddie McDoom netted a first down, Michigan worked the ball inside the 10 before a targeting penalty was called on Brandon Smith on third down. Smith was ejected from the game and Michigan was given a first down inside the five.
Wolverines impose will on PSU
The Michigan offense spread the wealth as it marched 54 yards on X plays to take a 14-0 lead over Penn State with 3:57 left to play in the first quarter.
Wilton Speight found Jake Butt twice for 34 yards to get deep into Nittany Lions territory. Once inside the 10, Grant Perry came up with a big third down catch to set up first and goal at the two, where De'Veon Smith finished off the drive with a touchdown on first down.
Karan Higdon carried twice on the drive for 12 yards.
Wolverines defense rebuffs Penn St. drive
James Franklin decided to take a page out of Jim Harbaugh's playbook and roll the dice on fourth down.
It didn't work out so well.
On fourth-and-five from the Michigan 42, PSU tried to run a quick screen that was snuffed out by Jourdan Lewis five yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The Michigan defense got a steady diet of Penn State running back Saquan Barkley on this drive. Barkley reeled in a short reception and took it 17 yards on the first play of the drive. The sophomore tailback then got three straight carries, totaling 11 yards and getting his team into Wolverines territory. Penn State, though successful on the ground on that sequence, decided it was time to drop back and throw the ball twice before handing the ball back to Barkley on third down to set up the fourth-and-five.
Hill punches it in on fourth down
Michigan decided to gamble on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, and the gamble paid off, as Khalid Hill burst through the line for a touchdown that gives the Wolverines an early 7-0 lead with 9:51 to play in the first quarter.
Wilton Speight found Khalid Hill on third down to set up the offense with a first down at the PSU two-yard line, where after a loss of one on first down and an incompletion on second down, Speight found Amara Darboh for a two-yard gain down to the one to set up the big fourth down call.
Defense, special teams set up offense with prime position
Jabrill Peppers nearly took back the day's first punt for a touchdown, but the Michigan star lost his balance inside the 10. A touchdown wouldn't have counted, anyway, as Michigan was called for sideline interference, bringing the ball back to the PSU 24.
Michigan won the toss and elected to defer to Penn State, who started the game's first possession on its own nine after a holding penalty was called on the kickoff. After losing two yards on a first down run, Penn State completed a one-yard pass before a Chris Wormley sack on the one-yard-line forced the Nittany Lions into a tough punt from its own end zone.
Big Ten play kicks off at The Big House
Jim Harbaugh and company will get their first taste of conference play with their fourth consecutive home game to open the 2016 campaign.
The Wolverines will have to focus their efforts on sophomore Penn State running back Saquan Barkley if they want to hold off the Nittany Lions today. Coming off a season in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a freshman, Barkley has run for 86 yards per game to open the season. PSU will need a spectacular effort from their star tailback today if they are going to pick up a win on the road.
On the other side of the ball, the Michigan offense looks to continue to build steam in both the run and pass game. The Wolverines rushed for 168 yards in a comeback win over Colorado last week, while Wilton Speight threw for 229 yards and a touchdown. Balance is the key for this offense.
Michigan is 12-7 all-time against the Nittany Lions and has won the last two meetings, including a 28-16 victory last year in Happy Valley.