But under the bright lights of the Big House, the reeling Wolverines played strong defense, and scored just enough points, and finished the game singing their famed “Victors” in front of 113,085 screaming fans as they topped Penn State 18-13 Saturday night.
U-M took the lead early in the fourth quarter on Matt Wile’s third field goal of the night –a 37-yard make – that gave the Wolverines a 16-13 lead -- and the defense would take over the rest of the way.
Senior defensive end Frank Clark played arguably his greatest game of Michigan career, and pretty much sealed the game with a key 13-yard sack of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg at the PSU 3 with 1:43 left in the game.
“It was good for him to finish,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of Clark’s sack. “Let’s put it that way.”
On the next play, the Nittnany Lions would purposely snap the ball out of the end zone for the safety, and would fail the onside kick and Wolverines would run out the clock to end the game.
Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) had lost three straight heading into the night, with much controversy surrounding the future of Hoke job status and the mishandlings of injured quarterback Shane Morris’ concusion two weeks prior in Michigan’s home loss to Minnesota.
“The way our guys have handled the last two week, I don’t if many football teams can do that,” Hoke said. “And persevere like they have, and stay together like they have. So I give those kids a lot of credit in that locker room. “
Did the team need this win?
“It certainly helps,” Hoke said. “No question about it.”
Gardner finished with 192-yard on 16-of-24 passing with a touchdown pass and interception. He would be seen carried off the field midway through the third quarter, and was replaced by third string quarterback Russell Bellomy, who finished 0-2 in his two drives before Gardner came back in the game. And Gardner said he lobbied to be in the game despite the injury.
“Yeah [I did], but there is a team out there that needs me,” Gardner said of his injury. “And they said that they needed me, and it’s much bigger than myself. If I can be out there, I’m going to be out there.”
Jourdan Lewis led the Michigan defense with a key interception at the PSU 28 late in the third quarter. He was able to beat the receiver to the ball, and now leads U-M with two interceptions on the season. However, Michigan’s drive would stall and would have to settle for a Wile 42 yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13.
The Wolverines were never able to get a run game going against the Nittnay Lions defense. Newly named starter De’Veon Smith led Michigan with 24yards on 12 attempts.
Penn State (4-2, 1-1) opened the game with a 10-play drive for 65 yards, that ended in a Sam Ficken’s 35-yard field goal. Fickens would later add a 32-yard FG at the end of first quarter.
Michigan took its first lead 7-3 on a Gardner to Funchess 43-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. The ball appeared to be intercepted, but Funchess took the ball away from the PSU defender at the Nittnay Lion 5 and scored two steps later.
In defensive affair, both teams struggled to move the ball. Michigan would finish with 256 total yards, compared to Penn State’s 214.
The announced crowd for Saturday’s game was 113,085, making it Michigan’s 256 th staright game of 100,000 fans in attendance.
Michigan’s defense put pressure on Hackenberg throughout night. U-M finished with six sacks on the night, recording four sacks in the first half alone.
Anthony Zettel’s interception of a badly thrown screen pass by Gardner early in the second quarter, led to a four play 28 yard touchdown drive by PSU. Hackenberg would find DaeSean Hamilton for a 10-yard passing touchdown. Hackneberg finished with 160yards on 21-of32 one touchdown pass and an interception.
Michigan has a bye this week, before traveling to rival Michigan State on Nov. 25.
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