After flirting with disaster multiple times already this season, the Michigan Wolverines suffered their first loss of the season in a quadruple-overtime thriller against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The loss puts a major dent in the Wolverines’ plans to take a run at the Big Ten title and leaves Brady Hoke with plenty of questions to answer going forward. The biggest among them, however, may be the status of the running game which completely let the team down on Saturday.
With seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter, Michigan was nursing a 10-point lead but couldn’t generate the offense to run the clock down the zero. Christian Hackenberg led the Nittany Lions to 10 points in the final 6:30 of the game, including a quarterback sneak for a touchdown in the final 30 seconds, to tie the game and force overtime. Michigan had lapses in their secondary and special teams which highlighted the Wolverines’ late collapse but the inability to run the ball throughout the game prevented them from controlling the clock earlier in the contest.
As a team, Michigan averaged just 2.8 yards per rush for the game making it incredibly difficult to sustain drives late in the game to drain the clock. The Wolverines’ running backs combined for just 28 yards on 30 carries and Fitzgerald Touissaint accounted for just one yard per rush. That’s not nearly enough to get it done against quality competition and it cost them dearly against Penn State.
Devin Gardner will take plenty of heat for his inability to make plays late in the game but the heat should be on the running backs of the Michigan Wolverines for completely failing to provide any consistent production on Saturday. If they had gotten anything from their running backs, perhaps Hoke and the Wolverines escape once again with a win against the Nittany Lions. Instead, they’re left with a disappointing loss and nothing but questions moving forward.