But trailing 17-7 early in the second quarter, the third-ranked Nittany Lions reverted to their powerhouse form of 2008. And the bumbling Wolverines reverted to their sad-sack form of 2008.
PSU steam-rolled Michigan in the second half, winning 46-17 to improve to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten heading into next week's showdown with Ohio State in Columbus.
Here's what went down Saturday.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State tailback Evan Royster carried 18 times for 174 yards and a score and helped keep the Lions close early in the game.
CLOSE SECOND: PSU defensive tackle Jared Odrick had six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Which brings us to
TURNING POINT: With the game tied 17-17 in the third quarter, Michigan second-team quarterback Nick Sheridan dropped back to pass on a third-and-20 from his own 5. He was sacked by Odrick for a safety to give PSU a 19-17 lead. That play opened the floodgates for the pounding.
SOLID STRATEGY: Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley replaced starting linebackers Josh Hull and Tyrell Sales with Bani Gbadyu and Mike Mauti, respectively, in the second quarter. The Lions were down 17-7 at the time but the youngsters added much needed speed to the defense.
NUMBERS GAME: Michigan had the ball for 12 minutes in the first quarter, Penn State just three. Amazingly, the Lions ended up with 30:19 of possession in the game, the Wolverines 29:41.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark was a bit shaky early. But he was sharp in the second half when the pressure was on. He finished 18 of 31 for 171 yards and a score. He's got to do a better job of holding onto the pigskin, though.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
Another slow start by the Nittany Lions. This time things got really dicey, though, as they trailed 10-0, 10-7 and 17-7 before rallying.
The Lion defenders did a poor job of tackling early in the game. They tightened things up later. But that's a dangerous sign.
The PSU defense played a lot of nickel early. Not sure why against a team than came in ranked last in the Big Ten in passing offense. Predictably, the Wolverines powered their way through the five-DB sets before State adjusted.
From this angle, Mauti ought to be an every-down player. Even in limited action, he finished with seven tackles and a forced fumble.
HIDDEN HERO: Penn State punter Jeremy Boone did a nice job when the game was tight, averaging 44.7 yards on three boots with one downed inside the 20.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Receiver Deon Butler had eight catches for 105 yards and appeared to be robbed of a TD catch.
DID YOU NOTICE?
PSU coach Joe Paterno was on the field before the game without the cane he had been using. But Paterno, who is nursing a sore hip, headed to the press box when the action started.
Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto had his bell rung while trying to tackle Brandon Minor early in the game. He stayed on the field for that series and the next before the staff realized he was a bit loopy. Scirrotto was replaced by Drew Astorino on defense and by Jordan Norwood on punt returns.
Before the game, the PSU majorette dropped the baton and the drum major wiped out big time on his flip. Is it any wonder the Lions got off to an awful start?
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Now that one streak is over, can the Lions take care of another one in Columbus next week? Thinking of going bowling with the Nittany Lions this year? Be sure to sign up for FREE updates on the official Fight On State bowl tour packages.
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