Michigan football: Wolverines comeback late to defeat Nittany Lions

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports /
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Down three points on the road, quarterback Cade McNamara drops back. After a short pause he dumps it off to junior tight end Erick All. All takes off running past the sticks to the 30, then the 20, now at the 10. All lunges forward as a Penn State defender throws him out of bounds, but not before diving into the end zone. Beaver Stadium goes silent as the official throws his arms in the air to indicate a touchdown, a game winning score that would put the Wolverines up 21-17 with only a few minutes remaining.

Too close to call

Saturday, the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines (9-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) traveled to Happy Valley to square off against Penn State (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) in a hard hitting, grueling Big Ten showdown that would see Michigan football narrowly escape with a victory.

Michigan, whose Big Ten title and playoff hopes hinge on every game, opened the game with a solid defensive showing, only allowing six points throughout the course of the first half. Nonetheless, the game remained close as the offense struggled to so much as get a first down until the second quarter.

Late in the second quarter, Michigan’s offense managed to finally start humming. As time started to dwindle away in the first half, junior quarterback Cade McNamara connected with sophomore wideout Roman Wilson for a 21-yard touchdown, getting the Wolverines on the board.

With only a few minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Nittany Lion’s offense seemingly found new life and got within field goal range, before kicking a long field goal to end the half. After two quarters of play, many could already tell that this game would be a classic. At the half, Michigan led 7-6.

After receiving the ball to start the third quarter, Michigan football would make easy work of the Penn State defense and score immediately. Less then four minutes into the half, McNamara would connect with Roman Wilson a second time, extending the Wolverines lead to eight points.

This touchdown would be the last points scored until midway through the fourth quarter in what quickly reverted back into a defensive battle between these two Big Ten blue bloods.

Michigan football and Penn State soon showed what Big Ten football is all about. In the cold of November with small amounts of snow falling every so often, both teams continued to pound every point of the opponents defense with no results. Suddenly, the game’s momentum changed.

The Nittany Lions would unleash an offensive and defensive attack on the Wolverines that Michigan’s sideline seemingly had no answer for. With 7:35 remaining in the game, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford would pass for the teams first touchdown of the game. After converting on their two-point try, the Nittany Lions had the Wolverines right where they wanted them, tied up at 14-14.

Michigan’s offense would march back on the field, only a few minutes remaining and in need of points to escape Happy Valley with a win. They did the opposite. The Wolverines would go backwards before Penn State’s pass rush would get to Cade McNamara for a strip sack, which the Nittany Lions would recover and take over possession already in the red zone.

As Penn State took over, the crowd at Beaver Stadium, which had gone quiet for some time, roared back into the game. Nonetheless, stellar play from the Michigan defense would force the Nittany Lions into kicking a short field goal for the lead. With just less than six minutes remaining, Penn State led 17-14.

Many Michigan fans began to give up hope; after all, they had all seen this before. Michigan goes up on the road against a good team, gives up the lead late and can’t find their way back into the game. Same old Michigan.

Yet this team feels different, this game felt different, and this game’s outcome was different.