Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner is the succinct representation of his football team. He totaled 354 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns, but also turned the ball over three times for the Wolverines as they left Happy Valley with a 43-40 quadruple-overtime loss to Penn State.
This loss was coming if you consider a string of narrow victories for Michigan. In successive weeks earlier this year, the Wolverines almost got beat at home by Akron and needed a late comeback to get a win at Connecticut. Statistical inconsistencies are what make the Wolverines the enigma that they are.
While Michigan’s defense held the Nittany Lions to just 3-of-18 on third-down conversions, they also only converted 4-of-18 themselves. The Wolverines held a nearly 13 minute advantage in time of possession, but their featured back Fitzgerald Toussaint had only 27 yards rushing on 27 carries. Michigan held Penn State to a 2.8 yard per carry average, but only managed two yards per carry themselves. A blocked and missed field goal were part of what lost this game for the Wolverines, but the punting of Matt Wile was a big part of what allowed Michigan to win the field-position battle for the majority of this game.
Looking forward on the Wolverines’ schedule, this theme of skating on thin ice will have to change if the Wolverines want to win the Legends division. After a home game against Indiana this week, Michigan’s schedule includes road games at Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa, in addition to home bouts with Nebraska and Ohio State. The Wolverines are now 5-1 overall and 1-1 in conference, already trailing the Cornhuskers and Spartans by a game going into the second half of the season.
The Wolverines were up by seven with 50 seconds left in the game and had four overtime chances to close this game out. Losing an undefeated season when 6-0 and 2-0 in conference were so close can be demoralizing. The Wolverines don’t have time to mourn, however. Their last six games are all ones that they could lose if they don’t learn how to consistently execute and close out games.
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