To say Brady Hoke and his Michigan Wolverines were desperate for a win at home against Penn State under the lights would have been a monumental understatement.
Yet it would be a very true assessment of the importance of the game played in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. A game of which was undecided until well late into the dramatic, tense end of the 4th quarter.
Michigan needed something big or someone special to assert themselves to change the fortunes of the season and fate of those involved with guiding the program towards the future. Thanks on multiple accounts, that is exactly what they received.
Devin Gardner determination and leadership shown through as he sustained an injury to his leg that required him to exit the game for multiple series late in the third quarter while the Wolverines trailed 10-13.
In his place, not Morris, but junior Russell Bellomy entered the game under center when Michigan sophomore defensive back Jourdan Lewis intercepted a Christian Hackenburg pass deep in Penn State territory.
Bellomy handed off the ball twice and tossed one incompletion before Matt Wile tied the game at 13-13 with a 42-yard field goal.
The Wolverines’ defense then forced the Nittany Lions a three-and-out series and Bellomy retuned for one more series of which he attempted a screen pass that was nearly intercepted and retuned for a touchdown by the Penn State defender.
Luckily for all involved, it was dropped. Another three-and-out for the Nittany Lions and a subsequent short punt gave Michigan the ball on the Penn State 49 yard line for the Wolverines’ first drive of the fourth quarter.
For that offensive series, Gardner would return, limping back to the field to the applause of the Michigan fateful in attendance.
After an incompletion, Gardner then completed a 24-yard pass to Dennis Norfleet that set the Wolverines up for a Matt Wile 37-yard field goal that gave the Wolverines a 16-13 lead.
Gardner finished the game completing 16 of 24 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and one interception and much respect earned and guts displayed.
The Wolverine defense kept Penn State out of field goal range the rest of the way and with just under four minutes to play, forced Penn State into a situation where they intentionally committed a safety (while punting out of their own end zone) in hopes of completing an on-side kick and creating one last opportunity with the ball.
The safety gave Michigan the 18-13 lead and Penn State did in fact recover the onside kick. Thankfully for the Wolverines, a questionably offsides was called and Penn State was forced to kick again. The subsequent kick was recovered by Michigan.
The Wolverine defense played an outstanding second half and held Penn State to 214 yards total offense for the game. Michigan allowed only 6 or 17 third-down conversions and 54 yards on the ground on 35 attempts.
Devin Funchess put the Wolverines on the board with a 43-yard TD reception that made the score 7-3 early in the first quarter.
Michigan ups their record to 3-4 and 1-2 in the Big Ten and breaks their three-game losing streak overall and 4-game losing steak to Penn State. Brady Hoke at Michigan is 3-0 under the lights.
The Wolverines have the week off before returning to the field to take on Michigan State in East Lansing.
The victory over Penn State stopped the proverbial bleeding and gave Brady Hoke and his team a chance to breath and regroup.
Hoke still talks of winning the Big Ten. Fans still talk of someone else coaching Michigan Football. There are five more games to go. Beating Penn State was a start. Beating MSU is still right now, almost unthinkable.
Can the Wolverines do it? Sure. Will they? Can’t wait to find out.