Michigan states No. 1 case, laying it on No. 2 Lions, 34-8 No. 4 Wolverines' defense rules in Unhappy Valley

November 09, 1997|By Danielle Rumore | Danielle Rumore,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Chants of "It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!" bellowed from the winners' locker room after yesterday's game, as silence and disappointment seeped from the Penn State side.

The game between undefeated Michigan and Penn State for control of the Big Ten was anticipated to be the best matchup in the country, but sometimes expectations fall short of reality.

Behind a dominant offensive line and stellar defensive performance, No. 4 Michigan (9-0, 6-0) rolled to a convincing 34-8 victory over No. 2 Penn State (7-1, 4-1) before a record crowd of 97,498 at Beaver Stadium. Penn State's loss leaves Michigan as the lone undefeated team in the Big Ten and in the lead in the Rose Bowl race.

"Honestly, it wasn't easy. It was a matter of preparation," Michigan safety Marcus Ray said. "You watch our offensive line, the guys up front -- they dominated. If our offense continues to play like that, we'll be very, very successful."

The Wolverines' attack cut down on the turnovers and penalties that have ailed them.

"It was the best performance we had at Michigan in a long time," coach Lloyd Carr said.

Quarterback Brian Griese paced the Wolverines with short pass patterns while the ground game utilized three backs. In total, the Wolverines amassed 265 yards rushing and 151 yards passing.

But the story of the day was again Michigan's defense, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation. Yesterday, with the exception of a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines' defense shut down Penn State's usually potent offense.

Penn State came in averaging 240.7 yards rushing and 223.9 passing. The Lions were eighth nationally in total offense (464.6 yards per game) and ninth in scoring (37.3 points). At the head of Penn State's success was its star tailback Curtis Enis, who entered the game averaging 118.6 yards rushing.

The Wolverines held the Lions to 101 yards on the ground and 68 yards passing. Enis carried the bulk of the load, with 103 yards rushing; the rest of the team had minus-2. Enis had just 35 yards at halftime as Michigan rolled to a 24-0 lead.

The defense rattled Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary all day, sacking him twice in the first four plays. The Lions did not convert any of their 12 third-down opportunities.

"They completely dominated us all game. They flat out took it to us," McQueary said.

The Lions only managed to break out of their end of the field twice, and the touchdown in the fourth quarter accounted for their only points. That touchdown broke Michigan's streak of not allowing a touchdown in the second half this season.

"We didn't like that," said Ray, who was still in the game with the rest of Michigan's first unit. "We really, really did not like that."

The 24-0 halftime deficit was the Lions' biggest ever at home under coach Joe Paterno. At the half, the Lions had just 17 yards rushing and 21 yards passing.

"Michigan played a great football game, you have to give them credit," said Paterno, whose worst previous home loss was 31-11 to Pittsburgh in 1981. "They are as good as anybody, and they have as much right to be voted No. 1 as anybody."

On the Lions' first drive, Michigan showed why it has the nation's top-ranked defense after defensive end Glen Steele sacked McQueary on first down and defensive end Juaquin Feazell sacked him on third down.

"The first play dictated how the game was going to go," Ray said.

The Wolverines scored their first touchdown on their second possession. On first-and-10 from the Michigan 45, Griese rolled right on the option and passed to wide-open tight end Jerame Tuman for an 18-yard gain.

Chris Howard (22 carries, 120 yards) ran the ball on three of the next four plays before running back Anthony Thomas carried the ball around right tackle for a 12-yard touchdown run.

In the second quarter, Charles Woodson's 37-yard touchdown catch capped off an 80-yard drive in 1: 12. Griese rolled right and, after a block by tight end Aaron Shea, he raced up the sideline for 40 yards. Two plays later, he hit Woodson over the middle for the score.

The Wolverines scored another touchdown before the half and one after. Enis gave Penn State its only touchdown on a 1-yard run to cap off an 11-play, 82-yard drive.

"The plays they beat us with are the ones they've been making all year," Paterno said. "They're very good, and few people can do it consistently."

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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