Penn State Pushes Past Michigan, 41-31
Oct. 30, 2010
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Evan Royster ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, Matt McGloin threw for 250 yards and a score and the Nittany Lions staved off a second-half Michigan rally led by dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson for a 41-31 win Saturday night.
Royster had 99 yards and two scores in the first half alone against the Wolverines' porous defense - the worst unit in the Big Ten. An offensive line maligned all season for a choppy running game opened up holes for the senior tailback, who also broke the school career rushing record of 3,398 previously held by Hall of Famer Curt Warner.
After a two-game slide, things are looking up again in Happy Valley after the Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) won their second straight and got iconic coach Joe Paterno his 399th career victory.
They're fretting again in Ann Arbor after a third straight loss for the Wolverines (5-3, 1-3) following a 5-0 start. Michigan fans were hoping Saturday would be the night the Wolverines would get a sixth win and become bowl eligible for the first time in coach Rich Rodriguez's three-year tenure.
Instead, he's back on the coaching hot seat. Again.
Robinson was a virtual one-man gang, running for 191 yards and three scores on 27 carries, while throwing for 190 and a score. A bye the previous week helped the dual-threat star recover from right shoulder and left knee injuries. He sure looked like a handful after his 32-yard rushing touchdown with 4:01 left in the first tied the score at 7-7.
Down by 21 for much of the second half, Robinson did his best to spark the Wolverines, including a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Kevin Kroger and a 1-yard touchdown plunge on his own in the third quarter.
Robinson's 4-yard scoring run - his third of the night - got Michigan within 38-31 with 9:25 to go and left most of the 108,000-plus fans at Beaver Stadium nervous in their seats.
But Collin Wagner hit a 42-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game, and Robinson misfired on a fourth down pass on Michigan's next series with less than 5 minutes left.
Penn State's defense made enough plays to handcuff the Wolverines early, while the offense stomped all over the Michigan defense.
They accomplished it with McGloin at quarterback after freshman starter Rob Bolden suffered a possible head injury last week against Minnesota. Bolden dressed for the game and warmed up, but didn't took his usual allotment of snaps in practice this week.
So the Nittany Lions went old school on offense.
Twenty-nine handoffs to Royster. Screens to tailbacks. Passes over the middle to the team's most reliable target, 6-foot-6 receiver Brett Brackett. And just the right number of shots downfield to keep the defense honest.
"The thing is, we didn't do anything silly out there," Paterno said. "I think that's a sign of growing up."
After a Michigan field goal cut the lead to 14-10 with 8:43 left in the second, Penn State followed with an 11-play, 74-yard drive on which Royster gained 33 yards on five carries to set up McGloin's keeper from a yard out for an 11-point lead.
The creaky Beaver Stadium stands rocked as fans celebrated on the metal bleachers, waving their white pom-poms in the air. A late-arriving student section got in the act by wearing all white for a signature Happy Valley "Whiteout."
But there was more fun to come for the Penn State faithful.
Jeremy Gallon fumbled the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the 2, and the Wolverines punted again after a 3-and-out.
Devon Smith's 22-yard return had Penn State starting the next drive at the Michigan 37, and McGloin hit Graham Zug with a perfectly thrown ball just over safety Ray Vinopal at the front corner of the end zone for a 28-10 lead.
McGloin finished 17 of 28 passing, and his performance might elicit questions of a possible quarterback controversy in Happy Valley if Bolden is ready to return for next week's home game against Northwestern.