Another week, another blowout.
The Michigan football team dominated every facet of its fourth game of the season Saturday, outgaining Penn State by more than 300 total yards and emerging as 39-point victors. While the Wolverines weren’t quite perfect, the Nittany Lions never threatened, and Michigan was once again able to put in its backups.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Saturday’s game:
Michigan owned the run game. The Wolverines rushed for 326 yards and held Penn State to just 70. Even with the Nittany Lions’ star running back Saquon Barkley finding moments of success, Michigan controlled the line of scrimmage and bottled up Barkley.
While there were still a couple of big plays, the Wolverines were notably better at limiting them. Penn State’s longest play of the game went for 33 yards, but outside of that rush, Barkley averaged fewer than two yards per carry.
On the opposite side of the ball, Michigan’s offensive line got great push. The Wolverines gained 6.1 yards per play, and in the run game, that number was even higher at 6.7. Pro Football Focus College rated fifth-year senior right tackle Erik Magnuson as Michigan’s top offensive player, and sophomore left tackle Grant Newsome was second. That’s a great sign for the Wolverines in conference play.
In the secondary, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis made his return, and while he wasn’t totally thrilled with his performance, he did have a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.
James Franklin. In the second meeting between Franklin and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, the latter completely outsmarted the former.
In the most notable instance, Franklin sent out the field goal team on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line, then called timeout to think it over, then sent out the field goal unit again. Oh, and his team was down 28-0 in the second half.
Harbaugh, meanwhile, was aggressive as always. His team was ready from the start, and while the play calling was mostly simple, there were a couple of fun wrinkles sprinkled in. Using Jabrill Peppers as an offensive decoy on one play, De’Veon Smith was able to find space for a 39-yard gain.
With a weapon like Barkley on his team, it’s hard to believe Penn State had so little success in the run game, or even by using his presence as a threat.
There’s only really one ugly thing that can come out of a game like Saturday’s.
Fifth-year senior cornerback Jeremy Clark, who had been seeing increased playing time in Lewis’ absence and performing among the conference’s best, left the game on a cart. After the game, Harbaugh feared the injury was to Clark’s anterior cruciate ligament. “We think it’s a season-ender,” he worried.
If Clark is indeed out for the year, it will be a bitter end for a player who converted from safety and worked his way into significant playing time for the Wolverines. Clark is on a team that is contending for a Big Ten title, and maybe the College Football Playoff, and now it seems he may not get to be on the field for any of that.
Ugly is one way to put it. Heartbreaking might be more fitting.