STATE COLLEGE, Pa (AP)—Rondell Biggs flew in off the edge for one of Michigan’s seven sacks, then flexed his biceps to celebrate his mighty deed.
The Wolverines’ defense provided plenty of muscle, Adrian Arrington and Mike Hart each scored a touchdown and Michigan stayed unbeaten with a 17-10 win on Saturday night.
“Our defense really showed that all year,” Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne said. “They played spectacular tonight and they gave us the ball in favorable positions and sometimes we didn’t capitalize.”
Henne was without one of his best weapons in big-play threat Mario Manningham, who had knee surgery.
But on Saturday night, the defense grabbed the spotlight, holding Penn State to 186 total yards. The Lions finished with minus-14 rushing yards, with much of the negative yardage coming on sacks
Michigan’s front seven was too tough and fast for Penn State (4-3, 2-2), getting into the backfield often to pressure or sack Nittany Lions starting quarterback Anthony Morelli, who was knocked out early in the third quarter after what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit from Alan Branch.
Backup Darryl Clark left the game too, looking groggy after getting hit on a scramble. Yet, Michigan still got a late scare after Tony Hunt turned a screen pass from third-stringer Paul Cianciolo into a 43-yard touchdown, energizing a crowd eager to see Penn State end its decade-long, seven-game losing streak to the Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten).
Michigan was forced to punt on its next drive, but Cianciolo ran out of magic. A incomplete pass on fourth down sealed the victory with a minute left.
A nice way for the Wolverines to head home to Ann Arbor to prepare for Iowa at The Big House next weekend. Coach Lloyd Carr is impressed with the way his team has handled the pressure of a Bowl Championship Series-run.
“We have had an incredible stretch of games,” Carr said. “We’ve been through the gauntlet, I’ve admired the way they’ve handled it. It really comes down to the leadership and the maturity they have.”
Branch, defensive end LaMarr Woodley and their fellow linemen had a field day, holding the tough Hunt in check on the ground and blanketing the Lions’ fast receiving corps.
Seven Michigan defenders were in on sacks, led by Woodley’s 2 1/2 and two by Biggs.
“Those kids are very active, the linebackers are good,” Penn State coach Joe Paterno said about Michigan’s “D.” “I knew it would be tough going in.”
Paterno said after the game that Morelli had a concussion.
Penn State defense wasn’t too bad, either, holding Henne to 15-of-30 for 196 yards.
With Manningham out, Arrington stepped up, slipping out of the reach of freshman cornerback A.J. Wallace to grab a pass from Henne down the left seam and run in the end zone for 25-yard touchdown to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We all knew we had to pick up his slack, that was big time production missing this week,” Arrington said. “We came out here and executed pretty well. It was definitely the loudest stadium we played in all year.”
Hart’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave Michigan a 17-3 lead. Hart finished with 112 yards on 26 carries.
Henne returned to his native Pennsylvania first the time with Michigan since spurning a verbal commitment to Penn State to sign with the Wolverines coming out of high school three years ago—not a popular move with the Nittany Nation.
A loud, enthusiastic crowd appeared to give Henne problems often as he tried to bark out plays on offense.
Morelli finished 11-of-18 for 133 yards. Hunt had 13 carries for 33 yards rushing, 78 below his season average, against Michigan’s top-ranked rush defense, but caught five balls for 85 yards.
“Their front guys are so physical and active,” Hunt said. “They are really tough.”