DL Kwity Paye of Michigan and OL Cesar Ruiz explain what went right and wrong in their defeat of 28:21 against Penn State on Saturday, October 19, 2011
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. – For Michigan Football everything was fine.

A chance to end an unlikely comeback. To keep his Big Ten title hopes alive. To beat a top 10 team on the street and dispel the idea that it could not win in these situations.

The Wolverines had to face only one game this season in the biggest and most strained situation they have.

And for a brief moment it looked as if they had done it.

Then the ball hit the lawn.

[ U-M cursed by the football gods again after tempting fate vs. Penn State ]

Michigan was a three-yard quarter-final catcher from the chance to win on Saturday at then-no. 7 Penn State, a game in which the Wolverines dug an early 21-point hole. Had Ronnie Bell, who has done a lot of plays for U-M this season, been holding onto that pass, the Wolverines could have linked the game to a PAT. They would have had the whole momentum before a nervous and muted crowd. A victory would suddenly have been very possible.


show thumbnails

show captions

Last SlideNext Slide

After losing between 28 and 21, Jim Harbaugh praised the character of his team. He was proud of how the Wolverines defended themselves against this early deficit. He thought they were playing with great effort.

They certainly took a step forward in the second half of Saturday. They fought hard and proved that they have enough talent to compete with a top 10 team in a hostile environment. They were at the wrong end of a few calls and no calls.

More: U-M falls in USA TODAY coaches in 20th place in poll; Notre Dame to No. 7

All this is true.

But that's the way it is: if Michigan had played the whole game the way it did in the second half, it would have been a decisive road victory. The hope for the Big Ten title would be alive.

That's why Saturday's result must be both encouraging and frustrating for U-M fans.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh argues during the first half A call against Penn State at Pennsylvania State College, Pa., Saturday, October 19, 2019. (Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP)

In the last two quarters (and even late in the first half) The Wolverines have done a lot to win the game. The offensive piled up and put together three high quality drives to end the game. Apart from a 53-yard shooter star star KJ Hamler, the defense was strong and forced five direct punts, while Penn State largely limited the offense. Bell missed the touchdown in the end zone. Hamler's touchdown, in which Harbaugh said the defense did not receive the right phone call. A 1-yard run on the third and fourth place of the 50, which ended a promising six-yard ride.

Shelf: Shea Patterson plays the best game of the season

Michigan played in the second half as the winner.

That was certainly not the case in the first half.

The first two quarters were marked by the mistakes everyone knows following this team. In the first game, the Wolverines had to take a break. The recipients dropped five passes in the first half. There were four penalties, including three offside talks. The unit of the special teams made a few mistakes and constantly lost the position on the field.

"It was nothing they did," linebacker Khaleke Hudson said. I think it was only our mistakes that we made ourselves. Things that we know we do and that we just screwed up.

The errors totaled and Penn State combined two consecutive shots to score first, finishing 37 yards, followed by a 17-yard touchdown, on the following One failed Wildcat run in third and third place brought the Wolverines into a situation where they could not convert middle for 44 yards, setting up a touchdown that was facilitated by two offside penalties within Michigan's 5.

The Topper: A 25-yard slot fade for Hamler, the Penn State scored a 21-point lead with just over seven points minutes in half.

Penn State Safety Jaquan Brisker meets Ronnie Bell of Michigan in the first quarter at Beaver Stadium, October 19, 2019. (Photo: Rich-Barnes, USA TODAY Sports)

"We have the beginnings ng played some important explosive, and it came back to hurt us, "linebacker Cam McGrone said. "A game like this, with such a good team, we can not allow explosive games, we did that."

It was not entirely the fault of the defense. The offensive failed to support the strong game of quarterback Shea Patterson, scoring just once before half-time.

U-M Classes: Terrible start, but improvement in 2nd half remarkable

But the Wolverines finally responded. The defense collapsed. The offense resulted in an eight-time, 75-meter shootout that was the start of a 21-7 run to end the game.

It was almost enough.

There are no moral victories, and this once promising season is almost lost.

The offensive took a step forward, showing some potential against a high-level defense. There are things that the Wolverines from the second half can take with them and develop further. At least, they seem to be closer to regaining unity than they were a month ago when they lost in Wisconsin (35-14) and said things would come close to a click.

The defense has played much better since this debacle and limited Penn State to just 283 yards.

Michigan could use the defeat on Saturday to become a much better team as the season progresses.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford defended Michigan, Josh Uche, defending in the second Quarter at Beaver Stadium Stadium, October 19, 2019. (Photo: Rich Barnes, USA TODAY Sports)

The only problem is that it may be too late. It's going to be hard to beat the Big Ten East, especially considering how well Ohio State has played and Penn State has a head-to-head tiebreaker. The playoffs are not within reach.

As was the case in 2017, when the Wolverines suffered a 42-13 defeat at Beaver Stadium, their season is about to come, thanks to Penn State.

How this team and this season got done is different.

But the result is still the same.

Not enough.

Contact Orion Sang at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang . Read more about the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.


Jim Harbaugh says Michigan has demonstrated a great character and "hard-fought" park on October 19, 2019 at Penn State University between 28 and 21, Pa.
Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press