Wolverines' defense exposed in lopsided loss
University Park, Pa. – The luster was off Michigan’s defense, ranked No. 1 nationally for much of the season, after allowing 42 points and 506 yards to second-ranked Penn State.
And that’s a huge thing, because the Wolverines have been relying on its aggressive, all-out defense, while its offense has struggled.
The Nittany Lions defeated Michigan 42-13 Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, and dominated every phase, but its offense, with big-time play-makers, quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, set the tone. This was the first time Michigan has allowed 500 yards or more since Indiana gained 527 in 2015 and equaled the most points it has given up since Ohio State in 2015.
“Their defense obviously is one of the best in the country and if you look at their film and their numbers and they are great players and a great team,” Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki said. “Obviously our game plan and the position that our coaches put us in tonight gave us an opportunity to be successful and we just made the most of our opportunities.”
With an extra week to prepare since Penn State did not have a game last week, Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead got the better of Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.
“They hit us on quite a few plays that we’ve defensed well this year,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I thought their execution was really good tonight, right from the beginning. Then we got a little bit under control and they came back. Good performance.”
Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley had 176 all-purpose yards against the Wolverines, including 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also had a receiving touchdown. His first touchdown on the second play of the game was a direct snap he took for 69 yards. He also had a big-play receiving touchdown, a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, we knew they were aggressive,” Barkley said. “They’re a great defense, they have a great defensive coordinator. Sometimes it’s going to be like a heavyweight fight — they are going to get some, and we get ours. When you get your opportunity, you have to score.”
Michigan linebacker Mike McCray said they had not seen the direct snap to Barkley on film. He was asked if he was shocked the defense was so soundly beaten by the Nittany Lions.
“I wouldn’t say shocked. Disappointed in ourselves,” McCray said. “We gave up a lot of points and a lot of yards. Just one of those days. It wasn’t our day. Simple mistakes in our defense. That’s all there is to it really.”