Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 10/12/13
Michigan should be the worst 6-0 team in the country. They couldn't even get that right. The Wolverines gave up an 80-yard drive in the last minute, allowing Penn State to tie the game, and Brandon Gibbons missed three game-winning field goal attempts before Penn State finally scored a fourth-overtime touchdown to win, 43-40. "We had all kinds of chances to win that game, but we didn't make plays," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said on his postgame radio interview. "You have to finish the game." Michigan should have put the game away long before Bill Belton's 2-yard run that ended it, but another woeful performance by the offensive line had Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges afraid to take any chances in overtime. All four of the Wolverines' overtime possessions ended in field-goal attempts, and Gibbons missed two of them -- both of which would have ended the game. In the first extra session, after Penn State had missed a field goal, the Wolverines ran Fitz Toussaint up the middle on the first two plays, even though he was averaging only one yard a carry. He gained exactly that on both plays and then Devin Gardner took a knee to settle for a 40-yard kick. Gibbons, who had missed a 52-yarder at the end of regulation, hit a low line drive that slammed into the middle of the Nittany Lions' wall. The teams traded field goals in the second overtime, but the Wolverines were handed the game on a silver platter in the third extra period. Penn State ran an end-around on their first play, and Allen Robinson's fumble bounced right to Frank Clark. That meant, once again, that the Wolverines could win with any scoring play. They did throw the ball once, but Toussaint was stopped on yet another inside run on third-and-1, and Gibbons pushed the 32-yard field goal wide left. He did make a 40-yarder in the fourth period, but Michigan safety Jarrod Wilson was called for pass interference on a third-down pass in the end zone. That put the ball on the 2, and Belton went untouched around left end on the next play to win it. "We can't let ourselves feel this way again," Gardner said. Hoke didn't have any second thoughts about the conservative play-calling when Michigan only needed a field goal to win. "We thought about throwing to the end zone once, but we have a lot of faith in Brendan and the way he's kicked the ball since he's been here," Hoke said. "We just wanted to pick up a couple yards, get him a little closer and put the ball in a comfortable spot. "He makes those kicks nine out of 10 times, but it didn't happen today. That is what everyone is going to remember, but a lot happened before that." Even after a terrible first half that saw Gardner turn the ball over three times as Penn State took a 21-10 lead, the Wolverines had come back to take what should have been an insurmountable lead. With just over a minute to play and the Nittany Lions out of timeouts, Michigan had the ball on the Penn State 27. Somehow, though, the Wolverines took a delay-of-game penalty, moving them back to the 32 and then lost three yards on, what else, a Toussaint running play. Instead of Gibbons trying a 45-yard field goal that would have clinched the game, Michigan had to punt from the 35. Matt Wile botched the pooch punt, putting the ball into the end zone with 50 seconds left. That still should have been enough, but freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg hit three straight passes to move the Nittany Lions to the Michigan 1, then dove over for the tying touchdown after a drive of just 23 seconds. "We needed to step up there and win the game," defensive tackle Jibreel Black said. "We didn't get any pressure on him, and we didn't make any plays." Hackenberg's last two passes -- a completion of 29 yards to Brandon Felder and a 36-yarder to Robinson -- both flew threw through the hands of freshman defensive back Channing Stribling, who went for interceptions rather than tipping the throws away. "They hit two big plays on that drive, and on both of them, we were exactly where we needed to be," Hoke said. "We had to knock down those balls, and we didn't finish the plays. You have to do that." They didn't, and it meant finally facing the loss that they had narrowly escaped against Akron and Connecticut. The biggest problem all day was Michigan's offensive line. Gardner scrambled for 121 yards, but was constantly under pressure, and Fitzgerald and Derrick Green combined for 28 yards on 30 carries. Making things worse, All-American tackle Taylor Lewan left the game in the first half with an injury and did not return. Hoke said at his press conference that he thought Lewan would be "OK," but didn't comment on the nature of the injury. "We lost Taylor and we lost (guard) Chris Bryant late in the game, but that's no excuse," Hoke said. "We have to be able to run the ball." Hoke has been saying that since the beginning of last season, but not a lot has changed. For the second year in a row, Michigan's offense has become one-dimensional, relying on a quarterback who can run the ball but struggles with his decision-making process in the passing game. The number has changed from Denard Robinson's 16 to Gardner's 98, but everything else looks the same. Saturday, that finally cost them the undefeated record that they had built with smoke and mirrors.
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