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Like & Don’t Like: Lions win a game! After all the adversity and issues, they finally get to celebrate something

Like: Penn State won a game. In the grand scheme of things, the particulars of how or why don’t really matter all that much. The Nittany Lions won and finally had something go right during this terrible season. Good for all of the young men and coaches. They all work hard. Yes, we can criticize them for many things, but they all deserved for something good to happen.

Like: Sean Clifford played a very gutsy game as he returned to the starting lineup after getting benched last week against Iowa in favor of Will Levis. Clifford did not turn the ball over. That’s ENORMOUS! If Clifford can avoid turnovers, he’s plenty good enough to lead the team to some wins. The problem was he kept losing games because of his turnovers. But in this game, Clifford protected the ball and took off on some huge runs to keep drives alive. He showed a ton of character in the game and did exactly what the team needed him to do in order to win.

Don’t like: Jim Harbaugh continues to be the most overrated coach in any sport in this country. His team is awful, and while, like Penn State, there are reasons for the troubles, Harbaugh has underachieved badly and continues to do so at Michigan.

Don’t like: Man, Michigan’s defense is terrible. Hard to believe that’s a Don Brown unit on a Michigan team. The Wolverines’ tackling was horrendous, and they could not stop Penn State on numeros key plays when it mattered most.

Don’t like: Condolences to RB Devyn Ford. Sorry to hear about this:

Love: Freshman RB Keyvone Lee had a fantastic day, rushing for 134 yards on 22 carries with one TD. He had some huge runs in the second half to help Penn State seal the deal.

Like: Freshman WR Parker Washington had a huge day, catching nine passes for 93 yards. He was targeted 11 times, so clearly Clifford liked what he was seeing with the way Washington was being covered.

Love: The Lions put together a tremendous drive after Michigan had cut it to 20-17. Sean Clifford converting a big third-and-3 early with a patient throw to Jahan Dotson for 12 yards. Keyvone Lee then bounced a run outside for a huge 24-yard gain. Lee again appeared to be stopped in the outfield before being patient and running for 8 yards to the Michigan 15.

Love: Clifford delivered on the play of the game, a third-and-7 pass at the 12, when he hit Jahan Dotson for 9 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 3. That pass ultimately was probably what won the game for PSU, which took a two-score lead two plays later on a 2-yard TD run by backup QB Will Levis. What a drive, just when the team needed it.

Don’t like: It’s incredibly stupid that batting the ball back in so it can’t go out of bounds is a penalty. PSU’s Shaka Toney got flagged for that midway through the fourth quarter, and it gave Michigan new life after the Lions had recovered the fumble. I guess Toney batted the ball forward, but still, that’s ridiculous when all a guy is trying to do is stop the ball from going out of bounds.

Don’t like: Jayson Oweh got flagged twice for offsides, and both were costly penalties that helped Michigan score points. The second one occurred with PSU leading 20-10 and Michigan facing third-and-4 at the Lions’ 31. That gave the Wolverines a first down, and they ran it hard the rest of the way to pull within 20-17 with 13:12 remaining. Just inexcusable penalties from PSU’s best defensive player.

As Mike Golic said on the TV broadcast, it appeared that Oweh was trying to guess the clap cadence and got caught a couple of times.

Like: On a big third-and-6 play, Clifford saw the blitz, avoided pressure in the backfield and scrambled up the middle for a 29-yard gain to the Michigan 23. The drive stalled at the 16, but Clifford’s run put PSU in position to take a two-score lead and was a huge play in the game.

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.

FIRST QUARTER

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:

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.

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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.

https://twitter.com/fatpoust/status/1332742181442957315

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.

SECOND QUARTER

Don’t like: Jim Harbaugh made a curious decision to punt on fourth-and-3 from the PSU 42 early in the quarter. The Wolverines’ offense has struggled this season, and McNamara had just been injured and replaced by Joe Milton. But Milton has played a lot this season, so why not give him a chance to see if he could convert and gain some confidence.

Don’t like: Clifford took a hit to the knee and went down for a minute. Michigan’s Taylor Upshaw fell into Clifford after he tried a deep pass down the sideline. Clifford was able to get up and walk around with a slight limp.

Like: Clifford shook off the hit and returned for the next series. On a key third-and-8 from his own 26, the QB scrambled away from the pressure, stepped up and threw to Parker Washington for a big 22-yard gain. That was a huge play at this point in the game as it kept the drive alive. Caziah Holmes had a couple of nice runs, and Clifford finished off the drive with a 28-yard TD run on a nicely designed keeper play for a 14-7 lead.

Like: On Michigan’s next series, Cade McNamara returned after missing one series. Joe Milton was ineffective throwing the ball on that series for the Wolverines.

THIRD QUARTER

Don’t like: Jordan Stout kicked it out of bounds to start the second half. Just cannot do that in a game where any little momentum swing could be huge.

Like: The Lions showed good toughness stuffing Michigan on second-and-1 and third-and-1 at the 44. The Wolverines went for it and barely got the first down, but PSU’s defense showed good life there.

Don’t like: Michigan faced a big third-and-7 at the PSU 39, and Jayson Oweh jumped offsides. That made it much more manageable, and Michigan converted on third-and-2 to keep the drive alive. Michigan didn’t get another first down, but that penalty helped the Wolverines get into field-goal position, and they kicked a 40-yarder to make it a one-score game with 9:10 left in the quarter.

Don’t like: Stout again kicked the ball out of bounds after PSU’s field goal late in the third quarter. Just unacceptable for that to happen twice in the same quarter.

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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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