ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Matt Wile kicked a 37-yard field goal with 11:24 remaining, and Michigan’s defense stifled Penn State in the second half as the Wolverines held on for an 18-13 victory Saturday night, snapping their three-game losing streak.
Devin Gardner returned from a second-half injury and threw a 24-yard pass to Dennis Norfleet to set up Wile’s tiebreaking kick, but it was the defense that lifted Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten) in the second half. Penn State (4-2, 1-2) led 13-10 when Christian Hackenberg’s ill-advised pass was intercepted. That turnover set up a tying field goal in the third quarter, and the Wolverines took advantage of good field position again early in the fourth, when Wile’s final field goal broke a 13-all tie.
Gardner threw for 192 yards and a touchdown. He was helped off the field in the third quarter with an apparent left leg injury but was able to return.
It’s been an ugly start to the season for Michigan, and coach Brady Hoke’s future is very much in question, but the defense has played well at times, and Saturday was no exception. Penn State’s only touchdown came in the second quarter — with a short field after Gardner threw an interception.
The Wolverines trailed 13-7 at halftime but slowly rallied behind Wile’s three field goals. They still trailed by three when Gardner had to be replaced by Russell Bellomy.
But it was around then that Hackenberg, under pressure all night, made his biggest mistake, forcing a pass that was picked off by Jourdan Lewis at the Penn State 32.
Wile’s 42-yard field goal tied it.
The Nittany Lions spent much of the second half deep in their own territory, and after a punt gave Michigan the ball at the Penn State 49 early in the fourth, Gardner came back in the game and found Norfleet for the play that put the Wolverines in field goal range.
It was hard to predict what kind of crowd would show up at Michigan Stadium in light of the team’s struggles over the last month, but there was a loud “Let’s Go Blue” chant late in the fourth quarter.
A sack by Frank Clark left Penn State facing fourth-and-32 at its own 3. The Nittany Lions intentionally snapped the ball out of the end zone for a safety with 1:41 remaining. They then recovered an onside kick, but an offside penalty forced Penn State to try it again, and after Michigan recovered, the crowd of 113,085 could finally celebrate the win.
Michigan has won its only three night games at the Big House. The Wolverines beat Notre Dame in 2011 and 2013.
Michigan’s lone touchdown Saturday came on a 43-yard pass from Gardner to Devin Funchess in the first quarter. Safety Ryan Keiser looked like he was in position to intercept the deep throw, but Funchess beat him to the ball with an athletic play to give the Wolverines a 7-3 lead.
It was 7-6 when Gardner tried to lob the ball out into the flat. Defensive lineman Anthony Zettel timed the play perfectly, intercepting the pass to give Penn State the ball at the Michigan 28.
Hackenberg threw a 10-yard scoring pass to DaeSean Hamilton.
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