State Rolls After Slow Start

Nittany Lions stay unbeaten with a homecoming whipping of Michigan. In improving to 8-0, PSU also ended a nine-game losing streak to the Wolverines.

Perhaps an omen came 15 minutes or so before kickoff Saturday. At the 50-yard line, PJ Maierhofer, the Blue Sapphire of the Penn State majorettes, dropped her baton while the drum major was sprinting down the field, ready to perform his customary flip.

He missed it.

No. 3 Penn State carried the sloppiness for the first 25 minutes of its game against Michigan. The fourth largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history (110,017) was quiet and maybe thinking that the Wolverines would beat the Lions yet again.

Instead, the second half brought a completely different Penn State team, a team which eventually would snap its nine-game losing against Michigan. The Lions (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) manhandled the Wolverines (2-5, 1-2) in every way imaginable during the second half, turning a 17-14 deficit at the break in an easy 46-17 win.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno worked from the press box for the third straight game. He did not go down to the locker room during halftime.

Paterno didn't need to. Quarterback Daryll Clark pointed to a touchdown drive right before halftime as the turning point of the game. That drive started at the Penn State 41 after an ill-advised unnecessary roughness penalty against Michigan's Andre Criswell. It ended with Clark finding Jordan Norwood in the front of the end zone, to put Penn State within three.

“The drive before halftime was clutch for us,” Clark said. “And once that happened the coaches let us know that we're back in the game. As long as we stick to the game plan and execute, we'll be fine.”

For the first time all season, the Nittany Lions trailed at halftime. Most of their early struggles could be attributed to the first quarter.

Michigan held the ball for 12 minutes that quarter and put up 185 yards of total offense. The Wolverines would only finish with 291 yards of total offense.

The turning point for the defense was in the second quarter when linebackers Michael Mauti and Bani Gbadyu entered the game. That defensive unit recorded its first three-and-out and Michigan, which rotated QBs between starter Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, did nothing offensively for the remainder of the game.

“He was great, he was spectacular,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said about Mauti. “Him and Bani came in and they did a great job.”

Mauti finished with seven tackles at outside linebacker.

While momentum was on Penn State's side well into the third quarter, the sign that Michigan would likely be earning the fifth loss of its disastrous 2008 season came from Odrick. On a third-and-20 on their own 5-yard line, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez called for Sheridan to drop back and pass.

Sheridan did drop back — all the way to the end zone — before being sacked by Odrick for a safety that awakened the crowd. It also gave Penn State the lead (19-17) for the first time all game.

“It was just a well-executed play by the D-line and also good coverage,” Odrick said.

After that, it was all Nittany Lions, as Clark scored on a pair of 1-yard plunges, Kevin Kelly hit two more field goals (he was three of four on the game) and Stephfon Green went 80 yards on a screen pass.

As the game ended, Gerald Cadogan, Maurice Evans and Lydell Sargeant were just a few of the players who sprinted over from the middle of the field toward the student section to high-five the fans. Clark took it one step further. He walked up the stairs and into the crowd to celebrate Penn State's first win against Michigan since 1996.

“It was very, very, very special especially for the guys that played in the 2005 season and 2006 when we had opportunities to take the lead and win the game, but we didn't,” Clark said. “And a lot of people had [mentioned] the Michigan curse, [that] we hadn't beaten them in nine meetings. For the clock to strike zero and have such a lead against a team that everyone's been [saying] about we can't beat, it's sweet. Real sweet.”

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