McNamara, No. 9 Michigan rally past No. 23 Penn State 21-17

Sports

Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara (12) passes while being pressured by Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie (17) in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Michigan tight end Erick All woke up on Saturday with a sore ankle, a leftover reminder of the Wolverines’ last painful loss.

Inside a packed, hostile Beaver Stadium, he was able to block out the discomfort enough to help No. 9 Michigan stay in the Big Ten championship chase with a 21-17 win over No. 23 Penn State.

All hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from Cade McNamara with 3:29 left and outran Penn State defenders to the end zone.

Michigan (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 6 CFP) snapped a two-game skid to the Nittany Lions (6-4, 3-4).

“I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about that ankle,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He was thinking about the team.”

And what another loss would mean for the Wolverines’ chance to end their 16-year championship drought.

All was hurt when the Wolverines fell to No. 8 Michigan State on Oct. 30 and didn’t play last week in a win over Indiana. He knew the Wolverines needed to stay within reach of the Spartans and No. 6 Ohio State in the Big Ten East.

“Adrenaline took care of the rest,” All said.

Michigan visits Maryland next before hosting the No. 6 Buckeyes on Nov. 27.

“It’s going to be tough for sure,” McNamara said. “That game is going to be so big for us and I know when the moment comes, we’ll be ready.”

McNamara completed 19 of 29 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns and Hassan Haskins ran for 156 yards on 31 carries. Roman Wilson caught a pair of touchdown passes for the Wolverines, who led 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was able to counter.

He withstood seven sacks, completing 23 of 43 for 205 yards and throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Warren with 7:35 to go. Clifford then tied it 14 when he connected with Jahan Dotson for a two-point conversion.

The Nittany Lions then got the ball back on a strip-sack of McNamara by defensive end Arnold Ebiketie deep in Michigan territory. Jordan Stout kicked a 31-yard field goal with 5:55 left for a 17-14 lead.

Michigan’s winning drive started with five straight runs by Haskins for 28 yards to move to the Penn State 47, setting up All’s touchdown.

“He just has a quality about him where he wants to and he can put the team on his back,” Harbaugh said.

The Nittany Lions didn’t move on their last chance, and Clifford’s final pass fell incomplete.

“We were able to move the ball, but too many situations where we had to settle for field goals in the red zone,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “We have to find a way to score more touchdowns.”

Penn State tried a pair of trick plays from kick formation in the first quarter, with mixed results.

TOUGH OPENING

Penn State gave up three sacks on its opening drive, but got a 42-yard field goal from Stout. Four plays earlier, Stout extended the possession with an 18-yard pass on a fake punt.

Clifford got up slow after each of the first two sacks.

“He knew we were coming,” Michigan end Aidan Hutchinson said. “He knew there was going to be pressure all day.”

The Nittany Lions forced a three-and-out, but couldn’t fool the Wolverines with another fake kick. Stout was set to kick what would’ve been a 20-yard field goal on Penn State’s second possession, but instead swung wide and caught a pass from holder Raphael Checa.

Stout was hit hard by Vincent Gray and lost the ball, and a handful of Michigan defenders pounced on it.

One possession later, the Wolverines got their first first down of the game and turned it into a 15-play, 90-yard drive that ended when McNamara tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Wilson with 5:49 to play in the first half.

Michigan tried to convert a fourth-and-short from midfield on its next possession, but Haskins was stopped short. Stout’s 52-yard kick cut Michigan’s lead to 7-6 at halftime.

McNamara tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Wilson early in the third quarter. Later in the period, Stout bounced a 43-yard field goal attempt off the right upright, keeping Michigan ahead 14-6.

THE TAKEAWAY

Michigan: The Wolverines started slow, picked up the pace and got big contributions on the defensive side to keep their Big Ten championship hopes alive. Hutchinson and David Ojabo, particularly were consistently disruptive.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to be dreadfully one-dimensional. Despite harping on it all week, they again failed to hit holes for big runs and averaged just 2.6 yards per yards per rush, Without any real push on the ground, Clifford is having to do way too much, and his workload was even harder with all the Michigan defenders getting clean runs at him.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Visits Maryland.

Penn State: Hosts Rutgers.

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