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Nittany Lions Hold off Michigan

Written by: on Sunday, October 20th, 2019. Follow William Albright on Twitter.


EasternPAFootball Senior Writer

STATE COLLEGE — Although it wasn’t exactly pretty at times, it was a huge win for the Penn State football team.

Hosting 16th ranked Michigan, the 7th ranked Nittany Lions bolted out of the starting gate before providing the 110,669 fans with a few nerve-racking moments down the stretch. The crowd was the fourth largest in Beaver Stadium history for the 2019 version of the “Whiteout” game.

The Lions came out of the locker room roaring, scoring three touchdowns in 17 minutes for a 21-0 lead. However, the Wolverines outscored their hosts 21-7 for the remainder of the game, the Lions keeping their Big 10 foe out of the end zone from inside the 5-yard line as time ran out to preserve the 28-21 win to remain perfect at 7-0.

“First of all, I want to thank all of you guys for coming out and covering Penn State Football; we appreciate it, said PSU head coach James Franklin. “I want to thank the fans. We had 110,000 in the game, fourth-largest crowd in Penn State history. I want to thank the staff, the players, the fans, the lettermen, the alumni, the other 150,000 people out in the parking lot still tailgating and screaming, people sitting in the restaurants and bars screaming and going crazy because we did not do this by ourselves tonight. It was the entire Penn State community. It was a great win.”

Following the game, Franklin had a lot of good things to say about the Wolverine program.

“I have so much respect for the University of Michigan, their program, their history, their traditions. Michigan is very well-coached and very talented,” said Franklin. “We didn’t play I would say our best in all three phases tonight, but we played well enough to win the game. We played really good complementary football. We made plays when it was needed. We made big plays on defense when it was needed. We made big plays on offense when it was needed and the same thing on special teams. We will critique the heck out of this, find a way to get better. We will enjoy it the rest of tonight. We are 1-0, that is always the goal. There are a lot of teams around the country that are not 1-0 tonight, so we are going to enjoy it.”

And there are the individual battles in every game.

“We were able to win the field position battle, the turnover battle, the penalty battle, and we won the explosive plays battle by a very small margin,” cited Franklin. “It is a bunch of good stuff. No doubt that we have to get better, we all do, but great win and I couldn’t be more proud of our team, I couldn’t be more proud of our program. There’s nothing like being a head coach and walking into that locker room and watching our family celebrate together, that is what it is all about.”

The Lions had things pretty much their own way while building up the 21-0 lead as they scored with six minutes left in the opening period before putting up two more scores in the first 7-plus minutes of the second quarter.

Pat Freiermuth did the honors of scoring the first PSU touchdown when he hauled in a 17-yard scoring pass from quarterback Sean Clifford before Clifford got into the scoring act on the first play of the second period with a 2-yard sneak to paydirt.
On the Lions second possession of the second period, Clifford and K. J. Hamler played their game of pitch-and-catch that resulted in a 25-yard touchdown, Jake Pinegar adding the PAT following all three scores.

There is the old adage in the game of football that if a team is hanging around and it scores a touchdown in the final minutes of the first half, it many times spells trouble for the opponent. That is pretty much what happened to the Lions as Michigan running back Zach Charbonnet scored his first two touchdowns in the game with 2:55 left before intermission.

After several changes of possession, it was again Charbonnet doing his thing with his second 12-yard jaunt to the house, and just like that the PSU lead had shrunk to 21-14 with 1:05 remaining before the turn for home.

Feeling the heat from the Wolverines, the Lions immediately answered the second Charbonnet TD when Hamler sprinted past the entire Michigan secondary and Clifford hit him in stride with a 53-yard catch-and-run for the score. Pinegar made it 28-14 with the 13:14 left in the game., but here is where it appeared that the Lions began playing not to lose instead of keeping the throttle down and play to win.

After a Penn State three-and-out, the Wolverines dialed up the pressure on both sides of the ball that resulted in a “sitting on the edge of your seat” finish.

Methodically marching down the field, Michigan cut the PSU lead to seven once again when quarterback Shea Patterson sneaked in from the one with 8:48 left.

Follow the Patterson score was a three-and-out for the Lions, and the frantic finish was just ahead.

Taking over on the Nittany Lion 47 following a short Blake Gillikin punt, the Wolverine offense again went to work.
Following a big third-down and a fourth-down conversion, Michigan had the ball at the Lion 7-yard line with a first-and-goal.

Following back-to-back 2-yard rushes by Charbonnet and Patterson to the Lion 3-yard line, a Patterson pass was successfully defended by Jaquan Brisker and Jesse Luketa for the final Michigan opportunity to tie or win the game.

Fourth-and-goal with the ball still at the Nittany Lion 3, Patterson’s pass was dropped by Ronnie Bell, Lion Lamont Wade defending on the play.
Operating from their own 3, rushes for 5 and 2 yards by Noah Cain caused Michigan to use its second timeout.

On a third-and-3 from the 10, Hamler did his thing as he rushed for 4 yards to the 14, causing Michigan to burn its final timeout.

So what led to the choice of giving Hamler the ball to secure the win?

“We just thought that instead of just handing the ball off with them overloading the box right there, we needed to go to one of our read plays where Sean [Clifford] has the opportunity to keep it or KJ [Hamler] can get it on the perimeter,” explained Franklin. “Although we had some success doing it, we didn’t feel like we were going to just be able to line up with their overloaded box like that and just hand the ball off again. Don Brown has been one of the better defensive coordinators in the country for a long time. He used to drive me fits when he was the defensive coordinator at Maryland and I was the offensive coordinator; we go way back. It really comes down to explosive plays against that defense, you have to hit explosive plays. You just know that he is going to overload you in the box and put his defensive backs on islands and you have to win. We missed some tonight, but we won enough of them and that was really the difference in the game.”

With only 1:45 left in the game, it was time for three kneel downs by Clifford and the Lions had escaped the challenge of their Big 10 rival for the win.

With the win, the Lions remain perfect at 7-0, traveling to East Lansing, Michigan, Saturday to face a dangerous Michigan State squad. Kickoff for that game is set for 3:30 p.m.

Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Total
Michigan 0 7 7 7 21
Penn State 7 14 0 7 28

Scoring summary
1st 05:59 PSU – Freiermuth, Pat 17 yd pass from Clifford, Sean (Pinegar, Jake kick), 5-66 2:19 0 – 7

2nd 14:56 PSU – Clifford, Sean 2 yd run (Pinegar, Jake kick), 6-64 1:49 0 – 14
07:22 PSU – Hamler, KJ 25 yd pass from Clifford, Sean (Pinegar, Jake kick), 5-49 2:21 0 – 21
02:55 MICH – Charbonnet, Zach 12 yd run (Moody, Jake kick), 8-75 4:27 7 – 21

3rd 01:05 MICH – Charbonnet, Zach 12 yd run (Moody, Jake kick), 8-65 3:10 14 – 21

4th 13:14 PSU – Hamler, KJ 53 yd pass from Clifford, Sean (Pinegar, Jake kick), 6-75 2:46 14 – 28
08:48 MICH – Patterson, Shea 1 yd run (Moody, Jake kick), 9-75 4:26 21 – 28

Team Statistics

FIRST DOWNS: Michigan 26, PSU 14
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) Michigan 41-141, PSU 29-101
PASSING YDS (NET) Michigan 276, PSU 182
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards Michigan 8 for48 yards, Penn State 5 for 58 yards
Possession Time Michigan 37:45; Penn State 22:15
Third-Down Conversions Michigan, Penn State 4 of 13
Fourth-Down Conversions Michigan 2 of 4; Penn State none
Red-Zone Scores-Chances Michigan 3-4, Penn State 2-2

Individual Leaders

Michigan Rushing
Charbonnet, Zach 15 for 81, 2 TDs
Patterson, Shea 12 for 42
Haskins, Hassan 13 for
Penn State Rushing
Slade, Ricky 3 for 48
Cain, Noah 5 for 22
Brown, Journey 4 for 19
Clifford, Sean 11 for 25, 1 TD
Michigan Passing
Patterson, Shea 24 1 interception 276 yards
Penn State Passing
Clifford, Sean 14 for 25, 182 yards, 3 TDs
Penn State defensive leaders
Parsons, Micah 6 solos, 8 assists
Brown, Cam 2 solos, 8 assists
Taylor, Garrett 6 solos, 2 assists

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