Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Michigan 14 #10 Penn State 9

Michigan (2-2) came through yet again winning their 9th straight contest over Penn State. The Nittney Lions came into the game highly touted by many in the media but had yet to be tested in a close game against a good team. A former Ohio State quarterback even had PSU ranked in the top 5 nationally…shows you the importance they place in education down there in Columbus.

This game was perfect for the Big 10 Conference opener as it featured classic Big 10 football. Both coaches love physical, in-your-face, smashmouth football and that is exactly what they got on Saturday. Michigan was able to grind out the win behind another stellar performance from Mike Hart. This win puts Michigan in the driver’s seat to the wide open Big 10 championship.

Michigan Offense vs Penn St. Defense

For the fourth consecutive week, Mike Hart led the Wolverine charge offensively. Hart rushed for 153 yards on a career high 44 carries. With freshman Ryan Mallet starting his second career game, Michigan needed Hart to carry the load again as he did last week vs Notre Dame. Hart paced the Wolverine offense and allowed them to eat up clock in the fourth quarter. Michigan ended the game with almost a 10 minute advantage in time of possession thanks to Hart’s efforts on the ground.

Mike Hart also did a tremendous job as a blocker. Even though he gave up a good 40 or 50 pounds to some of the blitzing linebackers, Hart met them all head on and did a great job buying more time for his freshman quarterback. When most people would get out of the way, Hart stepped up and picked up the blitzer. Hart also had a great block to seal the corner on Ryan Mallet’s 10 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. With his 153 yards, Hart is now 138 yards behind Anthony Thomas on the Michigan all-time rushing yardage list.

Ryan Mallet struggled a little bit in the first half as he went 8-20 for 94 yards and threw an interception at the Penn St. 6 yard line to end the half. In the second half, Mallet came out of the locker room and did a much better job leading the Wolverine offense. He was 5-5 on third downs in the fourth quarter (including one pass interference call in the end zone) to allow the Wolverines to use up valuable time. Time of possession in the fourth quarter was 11:50 for Michigan to 3:10 for Penn State. His best play of the game came on Michigan’s final possession in the fourth quarter. Faced with a 3rd and 11, Mallet was pressured in the backfield. Instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball away, Mallet bounced around in the pocket buying time for his receivers. Then, on the run he threw a strike, hitting Greg Mathews in stride for a 12 yard gain and first down. Michigan went on to drain the clock down to 1:28 before Zoltan Mesko pinned the Nittney Lions back on their 13 yard line. Mallet ended up with a much more efficient second half, completing 8 of 9 passes for 76 yards. While the coaches showed more confidence in Mallet against PSU by allowing him to throw the ball about twice as many times, his main job was just to avoid making mistakes. With the exception of a few poorly thrown balls in the first half (including the one interception); Mallet did a very good job leading the Wolverine offense.

Defensively, Penn State struggled to get pressure on Mallet, only reaching him for two sacks. Their run defense came into the game only allowing 17 yards per game but Mike Hart and the Wolverines ran for 166. They also allowed Michigan to convert on 10 of 18 third downs. Maurice Evans played well for Penn State, finishing with 9 tackles, including 4 for losses.

Edge: Michigan

Penn State Offense vs Michigan Defense

Anthony Morelli has been criticized throughout his whole career for being unable to win the big game. Saturday was his chance to prove those critics wrong, beat Michigan, and solidify Penn State’s top 10 ranking. Morelli got the ball back with 1:28 to go on his own 13 with a chance to lead a game winning drive and get the Michigan monkey off his back, but Brandon Graham and Jamar Adams made sure that didn’t happen.

Michigan’s run defense played well for the second week in a row, limiting PSU to 101 yards on the ground. Brandon Graham followed up a strong game last week with another great outing. He registered 1.5 sacks and applying pressure to Morelli on the first two plays of the final drive, forcing Morelli to throw the ball away each time. Graham also forced a fumble for the second week in a row as well as recovered a fumble in the third quarter deep in Michigan territory. Jamar Adams finished one short of Michigan’s all time record for pass breakups with five. His final two came on Morelli’s last two passes. Adams also tied his career high with 8 tackles.

Penn State had four opportunities in the Michigan red zone, but could only come away with three field goals. The bend but don’t break defense worked for the Wolverines as they came up with the big stops when they needed too, including recovering a fumble on one of PSU’s red zone trips.

Edge: Michigan

Special Teams

Zoltan Mesko is putting together a great season averaging 42.3 yards per punt with 7 of his 19 punts landing inside the 20. Against Penn St. 3 of his 6 punts were inside the 20, including his last punt which pinned Penn St. back at their 13 yard line to start their final potential game-winning drive. Asked in the press conference what the strategy was to avoid the dangerous Derrick Williams, Mesko replied, “Kick it high and far…but mostly just really high and make him fair catch them.” He did just that, as not a single one of his six punts was returned.

Michigan’s field goal kicking disaster continued as Gingell pushed a 29 yard field goal attempt wide right in the second quarter. Gingell is now 3 of 7 on the year, with all of his misses coming from 41 yards or less. This needs to be fixed and soon. Anyone feel bad for bashing Garret Rivas now? For Penn State, Kevin Kelly went 3-3 on his field goal kicks (28, 29, and 31 yards).

Edge: Penn State


The Big House was rocking as for the first time all season the fans were treated to a competitive game against a division I-A team. The Maize Out went over pretty well, especially in the Michigan student section. The announced crowd 111,310 was into the game from the beginning and provided the Wolverines with a great home field advantage. Joe Paterno’s playcalling seemed a bit conservative as he continued trying to run the ball late into the game when Morelli seemed to be finding his groove spreading out the Michigan secondary.

Edge: Michigan

Notable Stats:

Total Offensive Pays: Michigan: 86 PSU: 60

4th Quarter Time of Possession: Michigan 11:50 Penn St.: 3:10

Mike Hart: 44 carries, 153 yards, TD

Brandon Graham: 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 fumble recovery

Jamar Adams: 8 tackles, .5 TFL, 5 passes broken up

Press Conference Notes:

· Chad Henne has been medically cleared to play, status is unknown for Northwestern

· Alex Mitchell will not be available vs Northwestern due to injury, Jeremy Ciulla is doubtful, so Junior, Tim MCavoy will most likely start at RG

· Junior WR, LaTerryal Savoy who was dismissed from the team following an indecent exposure charge in July is back on the team after being acquitted of that charge.

· Time and television has been announced for the Eastern Michigan game. It will be televised on the Big 10 Network at noon.

· With the loss, Penn State fell to #19 in the coaches poll and #21 in the AP

· Michigan received 17 votes in the coaches poll and 21 votes in the AP putting them at #33 and #31 respectively

· Jamar Adams was named co-Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week today, his first time receiving the honor

Player of the Game:

Once again, it is Mike Hart who led the Wolverines to the upset victory with his career high 44 carries for 153 yards to go with some critical blocks along the way.

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