You want to put a sly twinkle in Joe Paterno’s eye? Remind him that the tenacious defense that Penn State unloaded on Michigan Saturday afternoon looked like some thing out of past Novembers.
Penn State, which built a national reputation with a fearsome, opportunistic defense, gave Michigan a bitter taste of it in a 29-17 win that should put the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions in a strong position for a decent holiday bowl trip.
“Yeah, the defense made some things happen,” he said. “The defense played aggressively like we wanted them to play. They weren’t afraid to make mistakes.”
A blocked punt, four interceptions and a fumble recovery, all in the second half, crumbled every hope that 16th-ranked Michigan had of coming back from the disastrous upset by Purdue last week.
The blocked punt, which produced a touchdown late in the third quarter, was the turning point in a game that had as many emotional highs and lows as the crowd of 105,898 could stand.
“We saw that Michigan’s wing guy was giving too much ground. We thought we could get by him,” said Penn State special teams coach Larry Johnson.
Freshman David Macklin broke past the wing man and blocked the punt. Standing close by to scoop up the loose ball was Ahmad Collins.
Collins didn’t have far to go, about 2 yards, for the touchdown that put Penn State back on top 22-17 after trailing by three earlier in the third quarter.
The Wolverines, who have slipped to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten, were hardly done in by the punt. They made some moves at Penn State (9-2, 5-2), but the Nittany Lions defense batted down every effort.
If Penn State beats Michigan State next week at home in the regular-season finale, the bowl alliance is expected to invite the Nittany Lions to the Fiesta Bowl. If they don’t get that invitation, they could wind up in the Citrus Bowl or the Orange Bowl.
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