Though perhaps only for a few hours, Michigan kept its hopes of winning the Big Ten East Division title alive.
The Wolverines defeated Penn State on Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley, 28-16, doing their part to set up a potential Big Ten title game play-in game next weekend against rival Ohio State.
Should the Buckeyes defeat Michigan State on Saturday, Michigan and Ohio State would meet next weekend in Ann Arbor to determine the East Division champion.
Penn State got a 56-yard run from Saquon Barkley on its first offensive drive of the game and got all the way to the six-yard line but were forced into a field goal.
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock responded with 88 passing yards on the next drive, finishing it off with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jake Butt.
The offenses went silent for a while after that, with the teams' next eight drives ending in seven punts and an interception. But the quarterbacks provided some fireworks at the end of the first half, with Christian Hackenberg hitting Saeed Blacknall for a 25-yard touchdown and Rudock answering with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amara Darboh to cap a 70-yard drive.
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Michigan led by four at the half but created some space on a Penn State mistake, when the Lions muffed a fair-catch punt in the third quarter, turning the ball back over to the Wolverines inside the five-yard line. Two plays after Jehu Chesson fell on the fumble, full back Sione Houma rushed in for a touchdown.
Penn State got its opportunity, when Brandon Bell forced a Rudock fumble on a sack. Hackenberg led the team all the way inside the five-yard line with a 38-yard pass to Chris Godwin. But again the Wolverines' defense stood tall and forced a field goal. It happened again, too, with the Lions getting all the way to the one-yard line but again forced to kick a field goal. That made it a five-point game, but Penn State didn't score again, and a De'Veon Smith touchdown run later in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Michigan's defense was sensational, holding Penn State to a eye-poppingly low 207 total yards, 56 of those coming on one play on the first drive of the game.
Rudock threw for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Hackenberg threw for 137 yards and one touchdown.
The win kept Michigan's hopes alive, at least momentarily, for a spot in the Big Ten title game, boosting its record to 9-2 and 6-1 in conference play.
Penn State dropped to 7-4 with the loss.