Penn State football tops Michigan, improves to 1-5

penn state football

Ladies and gentlemen it has happened. Penn State football finally won a game in the 2020 season topping Michigan 27-17 in the Big House on Saturday afternoon. Man, does it feel good to finally say those words. The win comes exactly 11 months after its last in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. A lot has happened in between those two games, but the wait is finally over and the Nittany Lions will not finish this season defeated.

Here’s how the first win of the season transpired.

1st Quarter

The Nittany Lions took the opening kickoff and made a statement in the game’s first drive. With Devyn Ford out, running back Keyvone Lee was active and took full advantage of the reps he was given. Lee picked up 39 yards on the ground and got Penn State on the scoreboard with a six-yard touchdown run.

Michigan was able to pick up a couple of first downs before it turned it over on downs when Cade McNamara’s pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-two at Penn State’s 42-yard line. Marquis Wilson made a good play to break up the pass and get the defense off the field.

The offense took back over from there and marched right back into Michigan territory. On fourth-and-one, James Franklin decided to keep the offense on the field and go for it, but Lee jumped early and the ball was moved back five yards forcing Penn State to kick a 49-yard field goal. Jordan Stout’s attempt didn’t stand a chance pushing it wide right.

On the very next play, Hassan Haskins broke loose for 59 yards on Michigan’s best play of the afternoon to the Penn State nine-yard line. Three plays later, Haskins took it right up the middle to get the Wolverines on the board. It was tied 7-7 after one.

2nd Quarter

After two consecutive punts from each team, Sean Clifford took back over and led an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to put Penn State back on top. After a huge third down catch by Parker Washington and some great running by Caziah Holmes, Clifford took a designed quarterback draw 28 yards to the house with three and a half minutes left in the first half.

Both teams exchanged three-and-outs, and it looked like Michigan was going to have another shot to score before the intermission, but Stout’s punt was muffed and Drew Hartlaub picked up the loose ball and the Nittany Lions took over on the Michigan 27-yard line.

What was to come next was the most frustrating part of the game because it resulted in a field goal, but easily should’ve ended in seven points. With a first-and-goal from the five-yard line, Clifford spiked the ball to stop the clock with 30 seconds left. That brought up second down and they attempted a fade in the corner of the end zone to Jahan Dotson that fell incomplete. On third down, Clifford had to throw it away and Jake Pinegar came in to hit the 22-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10.

Here’s why that’s frustrating to me. With one timeout still remaining, you completely waist a play by spiking the ball. Now, that leaves the offense with two more plays to get five yards and one of them was a jump ball to a 5-foot-10 wide receiver. There has to be a better option than that. The Michigan turnover was a gift and Franklin was content with taking three points going into half. You don’t beat good football teams by doing that. Totally unacceptable.

3rd Quarter

Stout kicked the ball out of bounds to open up the second half giving Michigan good field position to start. McNamara took advantage of it and led his offense down to the Penn State 22-yard line before stalling and settling for a Jake Moody 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit back down to seven.

Both teams exchanged punts again, and Penn State took over with five minutes to go in the quarter. On a third down, Clifford avoided pass rushers and took it up the middle for 29 yards and a first down. Holmes was then able to get down to the Michigan 16-yard line where Pinegar nailed his second field goal of the game to make it a 20-10 lead.

On the ensuing drive, A.J. Henning made a highlight reel catch for 28 yards and the Wolverines offense was in business driving in Penn State territory to end the quarter.

4th Quarter

On third down, Jayson Oweh jumped offside and Michigan’s drive continued. After two impressive runs by Blake Corum, Haskins ran it in for his second touchdown of the game to make it a three-point game.

Luckily, that’s as close as it got. Penn State put a beautiful drive together going 75 yards in 12 plays to make it a 27-17 game. Lee ran for 44 yards on the possession and set up a Will Levis touchdown run from two yards out with eight minutes remaining.

Michigan was able to get down to the Penn State 37-yard line, but the Nittany Lion defense held the line and stuffed a quarterback sneak on fourth down to get the ball back.

From there, Penn State was able to pick up three first downs on the ground with Lee and Levis to keep the clock running and ultimately allowed them to take a knee to end the game. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was undoubtedly the best performance we’ve seen all year from this team.


Penn State scored the game’s first points for the first time since Week 1 and never looked back. It led at halftime for the first time all season and never trailed throughout the game. It was a solid team effort by both the offense and defense. The special teams needs to clean some things up between the penalties and missed kicks, and the situational play calling still could be better. But when your season is going the way it’s going, you’ll take what you can get. A win is a win.

PSU Players of the Game

Keyvone Lee: 22 carries, 134 yards, TD

Parker Washington: nine catches, 93 yards

Sean Clifford: 236 total yards, TD, zero turnovers