The Michigan football team remembers the losses it took in 2017. They were what inspired the now-infamous “Revenge Tour” comments Chase Winovich made last month — the fifth-year senior defensive end said he felt tired of losing in either one-sided or agonizing fashion.
Michigan’s 42-13 defeat at Penn State last year was both. Defensive coordinator Don Brown said he thought each day about the 42 points the Wolverines allowed. Winovich and his teammates, meanwhile, were irked by the Nittany Lions’ running up of the score late in the game.
So it was only fitting that vindication was on Michigan’s mind heading into Saturday’s battle with Penn State.
“If we had the chance,” said junior quarterback Shea Patterson, “we were going to run it up, too.”
The fifth-ranked Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 8-1 overall) did just that, dispatching the fourteenth-ranked Nittany Lions (3-3, 6-3), 42-7, for yet another successful stop along Winovich’s “Revenge Tour”.
Michigan rushed for 259 yards while holding Penn State to just 186 yards of total offense. Senior running back Karan Higdon had his seventh-straight contest with 100 rushing yards or more, moving one game away from the record set by Mike Hart in 2007.
After a touchdown catch by redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry made it 21-0, the Wolverines broke the game open with a pair of interceptions in the third quarter. Fifth-year senior cornerback Brandon Watson made the first, which he returned 62 yards for his second pick-six of the year.
Penn State punted on its ensuing possession, and Michigan embarked another run-dominant drive — capped off by a four-yard Higdon touchdown run — before David Long allowed the Wolverines to tack on their final exclamation point.
The junior cornerback intercepted quarterback Trace McSorely deep in Nittany Lion territory, and four plays later, junior running back Chris Evans scampered in for Michigan’s sixth and final touchdown of the evening.
“It was a really impressive team tonight in all phases,” coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh had high praise for Penn State’s defensive line this past week, but he challenged it from the get-go with eight consecutive runs on Michigan’s first offensive series. Higdon took one of those carries for 50 yards, which put the Wolverines on the doorstep for Patterson’s second rushing touchdown of the season.
Following two early punts, McSorely, who played with a brace after tweaking his right knee last week, handed Michigan possession when he botched a handoff in the second quarter. Seven straight runs later, Patterson delivered a 23-yard touchdown strike to Donavon Peoples-Jones, lifting the Wolverines’ advantage to 14. It was the pair’s seventh scoring connection of the season.
In celebration, the sophomore receiver reinacted Saquon Barkley’s touchdown celebration from last year’s game — a flailing-armed sprint across the endzone.
“It was personal from the start,” Patterson said.
Michigan outgained the Nittany Lions, 210 to 77, in the first half and had chances to extend its lead to three scores. But a blocked field goal and timely sack kept Penn State within striking distance at the frame’s end.
The score was ultimately a mirage, however. Michigan continued to pummel the Nittany Lions in the second half as its defense took over. The Wolverines finished with six tackles-for-loss — including four first-half sacks — and allowed just 118 yards through the air.
“The most impressive thing to me is Don Brown,” Harbaugh said. “I’m reminded of the old jingle in the seventies, ‘You said Don Brown, you said it all.’ He’s the king of defensive coordinators.”
It was indeed a fitting end for both Brown and Winovich. With another lopsided win over a ranked opponent, Michigan feels like it can win its first Big Ten Championship since 2004.
“We’re the team to beat in the Big Ten,” Winovich said. “That’s not a controversial statement, it’s just, I think that’s a fact at this point this year.”