It wasn't easy for the Wolverines, and it wasn't supposed to be. Under the bright lights of Beaver Stadium, the white shirt-laden crowd of 110,000+, and without leading receiver Mario Manningham, Michigan found itself in a game that was in doubt in the 4th quarter for the first time this season. A daunting Penn State defense held the Maize and Blue under 5 yards a carry, and forced Pennsylvania product Chad Henne to throw for a season high 30 attempts.
Stalled for most of the first half, Michigan went into halftime with a 10-3 lead, with a 24-yard Henne-to-Arrington marking the game's only touchdown. A 24-yard slant to Breaston comprised mostly of YAC, followed by a 20-yard Mike Hart run set up Mike Hart's 6th touchdown of the season to make it 17-3 at the end of the third. And that's all you need to know about the offense. Because the offense isn't important.
Michigan's defense was the star of Saturday Night Football in Happy Valley, holding Tony Hunt to 33 yards on 13 carries, 78 yards below his season average, and 102 yards below his total against Ohio State earlier this year. Michigan held Penn State to a total of -16 yards rushing, and knocked out both first string quarterback Anthony Morelli and second string quarterback Daryll Clark, forcing probable red-shirt candidate Paul Cianciolo into the first action of his college career. It has reached a point where Michigan's defense is now feeding off the offense when it fails to produce. Whenever Michigan failed to convert, the defense seemed to get stronger, more aggressive, and for the opposing team...downright scary. And while a screen pass to Tony Hunt lead to a late fourth quarter touchdown and cut the lead to seven, Michigan's defense would not falter again. An incomplete pass on 4th and 6 allowed Chad to take a couple of knees and walk out of the only collegiate game he will play in Pennsylvania with a victory. Michigan wins 17-10, their 8th straight over Penn State, and 4th straight in Happy Valley.
Michigan Football, in seven short weeks, has gone from a vulnerable, wounded, and dejected program, to a team that has an advantage in every game they play from this point forward...before they even set foot on the field. That advantage? Fear. People are scared of Michigan again, and damn it feels good.
Under the cover of darkness, the glorious echoes of traveling Michigan fans came down from the alien-spaceship-like upper concourse of Beaver stadium. As if choreographed, "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine," "Go Blue," and "Hail to the Victors Valiant" was heard in perfect harmony from the different packs of the Michigan faithful. The switch has been flipped. There is one goal. There is one path. And everyone knows where it leads. The heavy work continues for one more week, as a pissed-off Iowa heads to Ann Arbor coming off an embarrassing loss. After that, it's a full month of cake (unless you choose to fear Indiana) before heading to Columbus for what may be the biggest hype-fest in sports history...and that much hype still might not be enough to prepare you for what will most likely be billed as the game of the century.
It was the longest tailgate in UMTailgate.com history, spanning nearly 10-hours. It was filled with copious amounts of food and drink, with no less than five full meals courtesy of the combining of our tailgate with that of Gar's World. Breakfast sandwiches, sausage and cheese chowder, JJ's famous salmon, Garwiches, Mediterranean Chicken and Shrimp pitas, and a plethora of snacks and desserts. Yes, it was completely ridiculous...but so was the scene surrounding the stadium, as nearly 1000 individual RV's set up shop, each with their own unique tailgates. Tailgaters of all levels and from all walks of life came together, from simple small grills featuring hot dogs and hamburgers, to full large screen HD TV's with surround sound with filet mignons and multiple kegerators. It was an amazing day, an amazing atmosphere, and another solid Michigan victory.
The first edition of the BCS has been released, and Michigan is #3 in the poll, their highest ranking since its inception. The Wolverines are #2 in the AP (which is no longer used in the BCS), #2 in the Harris Poll, #3 in the coach's poll, and #2 in the computer poll average (where Ohio State is #3 and USC is #1). While all of this is really nice...you should only be thinking about removing Drew Tate's torso from his legs in 6 days.