After the Michigan football team beat Nebraska earlier this season, members of the Wolverines’ defense said they could feel that the Cornhuskers didn’t want to be there.
Throughout the season, similar sentiments have been spoken by No. 5 Michigan’s defenders. Some offenses were called predictable. Others simply weren’t good enough to compete against the Wolverines.
On Saturday, following Michigan’s dominating, 42-7 win over No. 14 Penn State (6-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten), junior defensive end Josh Uche continued the trend.
“Yeah, I mean, they came out trying to do what they were doing,” Uche said. “(We) ran a couple stunts and their O-line was just so scared of us off the edge that they were oversetting. And we just gouged them inside.”
The Wolverines did gouge the Nittany Lions inside, and it began on the first drive of the game.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley found his tight end, Pat Freiermuth for a 25-yard gain on the first play. That was all the yardage the Nittany Lions would gain on the drive.
Two plays later, on 2nd-and-10, fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich cut inside from his outside position, split through the Penn State offensive line and swallowed McSorley up for a six-yard loss.
The next down, Uche did the same from the opposite side of the line, this time getting McSorley for an eight-yard loss.
“Most of their sacks this season came off of stunts, because McSorley, he’s a pretty elusive quarterback and he’s looking for those lanes,” Uche said. “He’s looking to run it through the B-gap all the time, and our pass rush is probably the most elite in the country, so I know they were thinking about us beating them off the edge. So they were more quick to jump out, and we just went inside on them.”
When all was said and done, Michigan dominated Penn State defensively.
At halftime, the Nittany Lions had gained just 77 total yards and -6 on the ground.
If you omit Penn State’s garbage-time touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, which spanned 75 yards in 11 plays, the Nittany Lions totaled just 111 yards.
That last drive wasn’t just a fluff for lackluster offensive stats, though. It also prevented the Wolverines from pitching a shutout, something they dearly wanted after Penn State killed Michigan 42-13 last year, attempting to a score late, meaningless touchdowns in the process.
“This one was definitely personal, knowing that they tried to score at the end of the game last year,” said fifth-year senior running back Karan Higdon. “Our defense had a stud game all game today, and when (Penn State) got that touchdown, they were all, you know, they were pissed. And that just shows you how personal this game really was.”
Added Uche: “We wanted it really badly. I mean, that’s the goal every game, but this game, it meant more, just because Coach Franklin and his offensive coordinator were laughing last year while they were tryna run up the score, so we really wanted to put an emphasis at the end of the game, but, you know, it is what it is.”
Still, even without the shutout, the Wolverines’ defense imposed their will on yet another team.
“I don’t know if other teams are necessarily scared of us,” Uche said. “I’m not gonna sit here and say that, but we’re not gonna stop, and if you don’t want to stop, OK, that’s fine. We can do that. But if you wanna stop, we can do that too. So we’re gonna ever let up.”