ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan is ready to forget.
Forget the three touchdown passes, the fact that the Wolverines didn’t force one turnover and, in the eyes of Greg Mattison, didn’t win the game when the Michigan offense did enough for the defense to finish it.
And Michigan will have a chance to erase those memories in hopes of replacing them with a much better performance against Penn State and highly acclaimed sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg this Saturday night at 7 p.m.
“He’s good now,” Mattison said this week. “He’s good. He’s got a good arm. He can make all the passes; he’s a football player. This will be a big challenge. They’ve got some skilled wide receivers and I’m looking forward to them coming in.
“You know when you don’t play up to the level we’ve set here, you look for a game like this to have an opportunity to do it and that’s what our intentions are.”
Fortunately for Michigan, Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions are coming off a disappointing loss as well, a 29-6 defeat at the hands of Northwestern prior to their bye week.
The Wildcats sacked Hackenberg four times, forcing one interception while completing 22-of-45 pass attempts for 216-yards.
Penn State will look to attack vertically in the passing game with five different receivers tallying catches of 23-yards or more so far this season.
Although Michigan’s secondary is having their own issues, according to Brennen Beyer, that’ll be the time for the defensive front to get their hands on Hackenberg.
“They definitely take advantage of quick passes but they can also throw the deep ball at times,” Beyer said. “That’s when we really got to get to him.”
“Our defense needs to force more turnovers and that starts with the D line,” Beyer added. “Creating havoc back there and making it hard for him to make decisions and putting him under pressure.”
Hackenberg threw 10 interceptions all of last season, already with six in just five games for Penn State this year.
Still, at the end of the day, Hackenberg is on the NFL radar for a reason and Michigan needs to be aware of that.
“Just watching him he can put the ball where he wants it and in tight spots he can place it pretty well,” Beyer said. “That’s dangerous when you have a guy that can throw into tight coverage right on target.”
On Hackenberg, Jake Ryan adding, “He’s a very good thrower. Just getting to my drop and reading his eyes, I think that’s a huge thing, getting to my drop and playing whatever guy I have. That’s what I need to do and that’s what everyone else on the defense needs to do.
“But he’s a good quarterback, knows how to throw, knows how to set this offense up for positive yards.”
For Ryan and the defense, pressure getting home will be key, unlike last week against Rutgers.
“Just getting to him,” Ryan said. “Having pressure on the quarterback is always a negative for him. So, we need to do that and just play our pass drops.”
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