Michigan vs. Penn State score, takeaways: Wolverines dominate, Nittany Lions struggle in latest top-five test

No. 5 Michigan cruised to a 41-17 win over No. 10 Penn State, putting the Nittany Lions away with a dominant second half after failing to capitalize on red zone trips early. The host Wolverines started the game with two long drives into the red zone but were forced to settle for field goals both times. Michigan finally finished another long drive on their third possession to make it 13-0, but the lack of touchdowns let the Nittany Lions hang around. 

They nearly took advantage of it, too. Penn State used a long run by quarterback Sean Clifford and a pick six to close the gap to 16-14 at halftime, and the Nittany Lions opened the second half with a field goal drive to take a 17-16 lead that made it look like we'd have a game on our hands.

We didn't. From there, it was all Wolverines, who sliced up the Penn State defense on the ground. Donovan Edwards (16 carries, 173 yards, two touchdowns) and Blake Corum (28 carries, 166 yards, two touchdowns) were able to get anything they wanted on the ground, and it was Corum's 61-yard touchdown run after the Michigan defense forced a turnover on downs that gave the Wolverines a 31-17 lead with 7:20 remaining in the third quarter and put the game on ice.

If it hadn't been for the early field goals, this game could've been much more lopsided. The win improves Michigan to 7-0 (4-0 Big Ten) on the season and keeps it alive in the East race. Penn State drops to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Big Ten and will now need help from others if it wants to entertain the idea of winning the division or the conference.

Here are my takeaways from an impressive Michigan victory.

1. Michigan's rushing attack passes test

If Michigan can run the ball like that against Penn State, I'm not sure how many teams in the country can stop that rushing attack. Penn State hadn't allowed any team to rush for more than 119 yards in a game (Auburn) or average more than 3.85 yards per carry (Ohio). It entered the weekend ranked fifth nationally in yards allowed per game (79.8) and 13th in yards per carry (2.96). It had allowed only three rushing touchdowns on the season.

It's no longer ranked that high. Not after Michigan rushed for 418 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. If we remove the yardage lost on a sack, the Wolverines averaged 7.8 yards per carry.

Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum combined for 339 of those yards and all four of the touchdowns. Corum was already one of the country's top backs, as he ranked seventh nationally with an average of 122.5 yards per game. We hadn't seen anything remotely close to the same performance from Edwards, who rushed for more yards today (173) than he had through his first four games combined (134).

With Corum and Edwards constantly picking up yards, it allowed Michigan to dominate the game. The Wolverines had the ball for just under 42 minutes of game time and had five drives of at least 10 plays. One was a 15-play, 48-yard drive that took 9:26 off the clock and sucked the life out of Penn State's comeback hopes.

2. Penn State's offensive struggles continue

My biggest question about the Nittany Lions entering the game was how the offensive line would perform. It had been an issue for the Lions the last few years, but it looked improved in the first five games. But it hadn't faced a front like the one it was going to see vs. Michigan, and it was overwhelmed.

Sean Clifford led the Nittany Lions with 74 yards rushing, but 62 of them came on one long run. Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen and Keyvone Lee combined for 41 yards on 13 carries. As a result, the Penn State offense was reduced to "can Sean Clifford make a play?" That's been the case too many times over the last few years. Clifford is the kind of quarterback who can win you a lot of games if you support him with a solid rushing attack, but you're never going to beat good teams if you force Clifford to shoulder the load on his own.

He had to vs. the Wolverines, and we saw how it went. Notably, Clifford did not finish the game. He reportedly injured his right shoulder and was replaced by freshman Drew Allar. Allar completed five of 10 passes for 37 yards and did not lead any scoring drives in limited duty. We'll have to wait and see what Clifford's status is, but we could see Allar make his first career start at home against Minnesota next week.

3. This performance doesn't mean the Penn State defense is bad

While the numbers are terrible, and nobody will feel the unit played well, this looked more like a case of the dam breaking than Penn State being overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier, the Nittany Lions' defense was on the field for nearly 42 minutes, and only one of Penn State's nine possessions lasted longer than three minutes on the game clock. It's only natural that a unit would wear down in those circumstances.

Plus, it was the Penn State defense stopping the Michigan offense in the red zone and scoring on a pick six that kept the Nittany Lions in this game as long as it did.

4. Michigan continues to be a dominant second-half team

The Wolverines entered the game having outscored opponents 115-45 in the second half of games and expanded that gap against Penn State. Michigan outscored the Nittany Lions 25-3 after halftime to take control of the game. I only mention this for those who may be inclined to gamble because this information could be helpful to you in the future.

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@PennStateFball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 7:34 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 7:33 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 7:32 PM
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If the game wasn't already over, it is now

Donovan Edwards breaks off a 28-yard run to set up a first and goal and Edwards scores on the next play. It's 41-17. The score finally matches how the game felt for most of it. The Wolverines are five minutes away from being 7-0, and Penn State is about to drop to 5-1.

October 15, 2022, 7:19 PM
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Another turnover on downs for Penn State

The Nittany Lions look out of sync with Drew Allar in at QB, and with Michigan able to pin its ears back because the Lions have to pass, things went as well as you'd expect. Michigan gets the ball back at the PSU 47 with 9 minutes left.

October 15, 2022, 7:13 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 7:09 PM
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That might wrap it up

Michigan gets a field goal to make it 34-17, but more importantly, the drive took 9:26 off the clock. There was 5:26 left in the third quarter when the Wolverines got the ball. There are only 11 minutes remaining in the game now, and Penn State is down three scores.

October 15, 2022, 7:01 PM
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October 15, 2022, 6:55 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 6:42 PM
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One play later it's a Michigan touchdown

Blake Corum loves to break for big runs, and on the first play following the PSU turnover on downs, he breaks off a 61-yard touchdown run. What a swing. It's now 31-17 Wolverines.

October 15, 2022, 6:35 PM
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Penn State drive ruined by an OPI

The Nittany Lions were moving downt he field and entering Michigan territory, but an offensive pass interference put them in a 3rd and 19. The situation had a predictable outcome. Sean Clifford picked up 13 yards on 3rd down, but Penn State doesn't convert a 4th and 6. It's a turnover on downs and Michigan has great field position.

October 15, 2022, 6:33 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 15, 2022, 6:32 PM
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October 15, 2022, 6:32 PM
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