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Penn State wins a classic over Michigan

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After the Penn State football team erased a 10-point deficit with less than 11 minutes to play, running back Bill Belton’s (Sicklerville, N.J.) two-yard touchdown run in the fourth overtime catapulted the Nittany Lions to a 43-40 homecoming victory against Michigan in front of a sellout crowd of 107,884 fans at Beaver Stadium Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions, who played their first four-overtime game in the 127th season of the program, improved to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten, while Michigan fell to 5-1 and 1-1, respectively. The 83 combined points scored were the fourth most in Beaver Stadium history.

After Michigan started the fourth overtime with a successful field goal, Belton carried the ball three straight times setting up a four-and-one. Not looking to extend the game into an extra frame, Belton’s number was called again and the tailback found a hole on the right side of the line for a three-yard gain and a first down.

With another third down looming, Michigan was called for pass interference, giving the Nittany Lions a fresh set of downs at the two-yard line. Penn State needed one more play as Belton, who ran for 85 yards in the game, sprang to the end zone to secure the victory.

Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Palmyra, Va.) completed 23-of-44 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, while senior wide receiver Brandon Felder (Fort Washington, Md.), who caught six passes for 97 yards, hauled in a pair of touchdowns for his first career two-score game.

In addition, tight end Jesse James (Glassport) caught one touchdown pass and recorded 67 yards on a career-high six catches. Junior Allen Robinson (Southfield, Mich.) caught five passes, including a key, 36-yard grab in the fourth quarter, for 84 yards.

The Penn State defense forced three turnovers for the second time this season. A pair of Nittany Lions recorded their first career interceptions, helping set up Penn State touchdowns on the ensuing drives. Cornerback Jordan Lucas’ (New Rochelle, N.Y.) interception led to Felder’s first touchdown, while defensive end Anthony Zettel (West Branch, Mich.) paved the way for James’ strike.

Linebackers Mike Hull (Canonsburg), who collected two tackles for loss, and Glenn Carson (Manahawkin, N.J.), who assisted on a sack, recorded 10 stops each, while DaQuan Jones (Johnson City, N.Y.) and C.J. Olaniyan (Warren, Mich.) anchored an excellent effort by the Penn State defensive line. Olaniyan collected eight stops, including 2.5 sacks, while Jones made nine tackles, two of which were for a loss.

Penn State, which scored 14 points off three first-half turnovers, out gained Michigan by a 390-389 margin, including a 305-240 effort through the air. The Wolverines’ Devin Gardner completed 15-of-28 passes for 240 yards and two interceptions.

With 9:39 remaining in the first quarter, Penn State took a 7-0 lead following Lucas’ quick-read interception. Three plays after the pick, Hackenberg, who benefitted from excellent offensive-line protection, went through several progressions before connecting with Felder for a 12-yard touchdown strike.

Michigan knotted the score on the following drive 1:20 later. Gardner found Devin Funchess, who slipped past the Penn State secondary, for the 59-yard touchdown. With 49 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, the Wolverines kicked their way to a 10-7 lead when Brendan Gibbons sailed a 47-yard attempt through the uprights.

In the second quarter, Hackenberg hooked up with James as Penn State took a 14-10 advantage with 11:27 remaining. Before the offense took control, the Penn State defense forced another interception as Zettel dropped back into coverage and made a leaping grab before returning the ball to the Michigan 20-yard line. On the next play, Hackenberg found the 6-foot-7 James for the touchdown reception.

The Nittany Lions utilized a hurry-up offense and marched down the field in 2:39 to take a 21-10 lead with 7:06 left in the half. Facing a third-and-10 from the 24-yard line, Hackenberg scrambled right before throwing across his body and finding a heavily-covered Felder in the end zone.

On the second half’s first play from scrimmage, the Michigan defense capitalized on a Penn State fumble and returned it to the end zone, cutting the Nittany Lion lead to 21-17 just 10 seconds into the frame.

The Wolverines then inched closer after securing another turnover. Following an interception, Gibbons connected on a 23-yard field goal, making it a one-point game with 8:50 left in the third quarter.

With 4:21 remaining, Penn State stopped the Wolverines’ 10-0 run when Sam Ficken (Valparaiso, Ind.) booted a 45-yard field goal, giving the Nittany Lions a 24-20 lead. Ficken went 3-for-5 on field goals in the game.

Michigan responded on the ensuing drive as the Wolverines took their first lead since it was 10-7. With 28 seconds left in the quarter, Gardner found Jeremy Gallon in the end zone as Michigan took a 27-24 advantage.

With 10:28 left in the fourth quarter, Michigan extended its lead, 34-24, after Gardner found Funchness for a 37-yard touchdown for the receivers second score of the game.

Penn State made it a one-possession game with 6:35 left in the contest. After marching down the field, Ficken capped off a 12-play, 49-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal to cut the Michigan advantage to 34-27.

After Michigan was forced the punt on its next possession, Penn State needed to travel 80 yards with no timeouts remaining in just 50 seconds. Hackenberg found Robinson and Felder for 14 and 29 yards, respectively before hooking up with Robinson again for 36 yards, bringing the Nittany Lions down to the one-yard line. On the next play, Hackenberg powered his way for the touchdown.

With time winding down, the Wolverines quickly moved down the field, setting up a 52-yard field-goal attempt that fell just short.

A drama-filled overtime ensued, beginning with a missed Penn State field-goal attempt. Gibbons once again had a chance to win the game for the Wolverines, but his 40-yard attempt was blocked.

The teams exchanged a pair of successful field goals in the second overtime period to make it a 37-37 game. In the third overtime, Penn State fumbled the ball on its possession, but Michigan was unable to capitalize as a 33-yard field-goal try sailed left.

The Wolverines began the fourth overtime with a successful 40-yard try, but Belton’s heroics capped the comeback and accounted for the 43-40 final.

The Nittany Lions will return to the gridiron in two weekends when they travel to Ohio State for a Leaders Division clash. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 and the Penn State Sports Network.

Article courtesy of PSU Atletics.

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