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PSU beats Michigan, 27-17, for first win of season

It took a whole lot longer than anyone could have imagined, but Penn State finally won its first game of the season Saturday afternoon following an 0-5 start.

The Nittany Lions went to Michigan and played well enough on both sides of the ball to come away with a 27-17 victory over a struggling Wolverines team that had issues on both offense and defense at the Big House.

Penn State led 20-17, then put together a huge TD drive early in the the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game at 27-17, and the defense held from there.

Freshman running back Keyvone Lee rushed for 134 yards on 22 carries, including a big 24-yard run on that touchdown drive that helped PSU seal the deal.

Sean Clifford, benched last week against Iowa, returned to start at quarterback and played a solid game. He didn’t turn the ball over, first and foremost, and completed 17-of-28 passes for 163 yards. He also came up with some big runs, gaining 73 yards on nine carries, including a big 29-yard run that set up a key field goal.

On third-and-7 from the Michigan 12, Clifford connected with Jahan Dotson on a 9-yard pass to set up first-and-goal at the 3. Levis scored two plays later for the 27-17 lead with 8:12 left to play.

Penn State won at Michigan for the first time since 2009. The Lions had been beaten there 42-7 and 49-10 their last two trips.

Update: 2:55 p.m.

Penn State 27, Michigan 17: Keyvone Lee and Sean Clifford led the Lions on a huge TD drive after Michigan had pulled within 20-17. Lee had two big runs, one for 24 yards, and Clifford converted a huge third-and-7 when he hit Jahan Dotson for 9 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 3. Will Levis scored from 2 yards out to make it a two-score game.

Penn State 20, Michigan 17: The Wolverines put together a good drive, sparked by a tremendous catch by A.J. Henning on a 50-50 ball over Daequan Hardy for a 28-yard gain. Hassan Haskins scored from 2 yards out with 13:12 remaining.

Update: 2:10 p.m.

Penn State 17, Michigan 10: On the first possession of the second half, the Wolverines got a 40-yard field goal from Jake Moody to pull within one score. Michigan’s starting kicker, one-time PSU commit Quinn Nordin, is injured and wasn’t available for the game.

Update: 1:40 p.m.

**Penn State leads 17-7 at the half, pulling away from a 7-7 tie with a 28-yard TD run by Sean Clifford with 3:32 left in the half.

The Lions stretched the lead to 17-7 on a 23-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar with 15 seconds left in the half. The Lions missed a chance to make it an even bigger lead as they had first-and-goal at 5. But then this happened:

Don’t like: Penn State had a particularly terrible sequence late in the first half that cost the team four points. PSU got a huge break when Michigan muffed a punt, and the ball popped right up to Aeneas Hawkins at the Wolverines’ 27. The Lions got to first-and-goal at the 5, then did several dumb things in a horrendous sequence. There was NO NEED to spike it on 1st down to stop the clock. The Lions had one timeout left and plenty of time with 25 seconds left. Kirk Ciarrocca then called for yet another fade pass on second down, and it was incomplete to Jahan Dotson. Ciarrocca seems to love the fade call, but it has been terrible for PSU this season. Clifford faced pressure on third down and had to throw it away, so PSU had to settle for a field goal.

Update: 12:45 p.m.

FIRST QUARTER Like & Don’t Like

Like: Keyvone Lee ran hard and well to start the game, getting 7 yards on his first carry and 9 a couple of carries later. That set the tone on the drive, and the O-line opened up some holes for the freshman. Lee ran for 9 yards from the Michigan 15, then waltzed in for a 6-yard score.

Like: Sean Clifford was sharp from the get go, hitting some Parker Washington for a 20-yard gain, with Washington breaking a tackle and getting some extra yards. Clifford then found Isaac Lutz for a 16-yard pickup to the Michigan 15. It was exactly the kind of start Clifford needed to have for his confidence.

Like: This was a good move by Michigan:

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Like: Penn State’s defense made a big fourth-down stop on Michigan’s opening drive, stopping the Wolverines on fourth-and-2 from the PSU 42. That had to be a big confidence boost for the defense, which had been awful early in games all season.

Don’t like: Man, that was an awful sequence for Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis after it got to third-and-3.

Like: Parker Washington fumbled on the first play of PSU’s next series, with Michigan scooping and scoring. But it was pretty clear on the replay that Washington’s knee was down, and the officials got it right by reversing the TD. This was a huge play early, as it would have tied the game and been a brutal turnover for PSU, but instead the Lions got the benefit of the call.

Don’t like: Man, what a terrible sequence. PSU had fourth-and-1 from the Michigan 26 and brought in Will Levis at QB. Keyvone Lee was in the right slot and flinched, getting flagged for a false start. That ended the hopes of going for it, and Jordan Stout missed a 49-yard field goal wide right.

Don’t like: The refs blew it on that fourth down by missing that Michigan had 12 defenders on the field.

Don’t like: Penn State’s defense fell asleep as Hassan Haskins busted free for 61 yards on the first play of the next series. That set up first-and-goal at the 9, and Haskins scored two plays later to tie it.

Don’t like: Michigan QB Cade McNamara got his right shoulder banged up on the second-and-goal play as he tried to scramble and was hit. McNamara went to the sideline to get treatment.

Update: Noon

The ESPN GameDay picks for the game. The guest picker was Joe Namath.

Update: 11:45 a.m.

**It appears that Sean Clifford will start at QB for Penn State, according to reporters on site in Ann Arbor.

RB Devyn Ford is out for PSU, according to ESPN. That leaves true freshmen Keyvone Lee and Caziah Holmes as the Lions’ tailback options.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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