ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Whether due to injury or the tenacity of the Michigan defense or his own sheer ineffectiveness, Saturday didn’t prove to be Trace McSorley’s day. The reasons it lasted as long as it did turned into a hot topic after Penn State’s blowout loss against No. 5 Michigan. Wearing a brace on his right knee, McSorley completed just 5 of 13 passes for 83 yards, ran for minus-6 yards and didn’t account for a touchdown for the first time since he entered the game in the second half of the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, as the Wolverines spanked the No. 5 Nittany Lions, 42-7, at Michigan Stadium. With a knee injury head coach James Franklin acknowledged affected his play to some degree, McSorley was pulled from the game late in the third quarter with Penn State trailing by 21. But after backup Tommy Stevens threw an ugly interception Michigan cornerback Brandon Watson returned 62 yards for a rout-inducing score, Franklin put McSorley back into the game. On his first play back, McSorley got up slowly following a 3-yard run when Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye tripped him up with his injured leg. Stevens came back in after that, ultimately running for Penn State’s lone touchdown with 1:59 to go. “Obviously, when we threw the interception there, we felt like we needed to put Trace back in,” Franklin explained. “You probably could have made the change a little earlier, the way they were pressuring us and loading the box. “It’s hard taking Trace McSorley off the field. Same thing last week, he made some huge plays for us. That’s the biggest thing, our trust and belief in him. But after the fact, we should have made a change earlier.” McSorley’s health Franklin conceded that having a fully healthy McSorley, one who could throw on the run and be a factor in the running game, would have been critical against the nation’s top-ranked defense. But neither McSorley or Franklin pointed to the knee injury as a reason for his scattershot play. For his part, McSorley said what he maintained during the week leading up to the game: He wasn’t going to talk about the condition of his right knee. “I don’t know if it was necessarily as much about Trace’s knee as it was about how good they are on defense,” Franklin said. “Obviously with more mobility, Trace at 100 percent, yeah, I think that helps us. But we have to give them credit. They’re the No. 1 defense in the nation for a reason. That was the biggest reason tonight.” Same mistake For as out of hand as it got in the fourth quarter, the game may have turned on Penn State’s first turnover. For the second consecutive week, McSorley and running back Miles Sanders botched an attempted handoff. This one came at a critical time in the game, just after Penn State blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt by Michigan’s Quinn Nordin with the score 7-0. McSorley tried to give the ball to Sanders too late in the process, and Franklin said McSorley came to the sideline admitting it was his indecision that led to the critical error. “I don’t really know what happened,” Sanders said. “I was trying to look at my aiming point, and Trace, it was his indecisiveness. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to get that cleaned up. It’s my fault, too. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen, and it has happened too many times this season.” Slow going Penn State amassed just 186 yards of total offense. The last time they had fewer: Sept. 5, 2015, in the season opening loss against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field. The Nittany Lions had just 180 that day. The last time they had fewer than 186 against a Big Ten opponent: Oct. 21, 2006, against Illinois at Beaver Stadium, when they had 184 and won, 26-12, thanks to a safety, kickoff return and fumble return for a score. Nittany notes Defensive end Shareef Miller, who McSorley lauded early in the week for his increased leadership on the defense, went out for the coin toss with Penn State’s three regular captains, McSorley, safety Nick Scott and punter Blake Gillikin. … Two regular contributors missed the game for the Nittany Lions. Receiver Juwan Johnson, who was injured during the Indiana game and played on just 10 snaps against Iowa because of a leg injury, didn’t make the trip. Neither did kickoff specialist Rafael Checa, who suffered an injury during the week of practice leading up to the game. … Filling in for Checa, former Penn State-Abington soccer standout Justin Tobin handled kickoff duties. Contact the writer: [email protected]; 570-348-9125 @psubst on Twitter

Source: The Associated Press

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