College Football
Big Noon Live: Michigan bulls past Penn State as Jim Harbaugh sits out
College Football

Big Noon Live: Michigan bulls past Penn State as Jim Harbaugh sits out

Updated Nov. 11, 2023 3:48 p.m. ET

Michigan faced its first big test of the season Saturday when the No. 3 Wolverines took on No. 10 Penn State. The game had huge implications in the Big Ten East race as well as the chase for the College Football Playoff, but the biggest story leading into the game was the continuing saga around the Michigan sign-stealing investigation.

On Friday, the Big Ten announced that Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh would not be allowed on the sideline in the last three regular-season games. Michigan responded by announcing it would seek legal means to allow Harbaugh to continue.

Would Harbaugh coach? Not on Saturday, as college football insider Bruce Feldman explained on "Big Noon Kickoff."

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh won't appear vs. Penn State

FOX Sports reporter Michael Cohen confirmed that there would be no ruling Saturday, and shared this statement from Michigan: "We look forward to presenting our case next week where we intend to demonstrate that the Big Ten has not acted legally or fairly."


Sherrone Moore was named the acting head coach, per Cohen, with assistance from Jesse Minter. 

There will be a hearing next Friday to discuss the situation, per Feldman. The BNK crew discussed the situation.

'Big Noon Kickoff' talks about the latest updates around Harbaugh

None of this had any impact on Michigan during the game, however. The Wolverines simply did what they always do, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, wearing down their opponents, and eventually coming away with the victory.

Michigan improved to 10-0, setting up a huge game against the Buckeyes in a couple of weeks.

Here's my breakdown of all the big moments in the game.

No. 3 Michigan 24, No. 10 Penn State 15

Some additional thoughts from State College:

— J.J. McCarthy didn’t throw a single pass in the second half, but it didn’t matter. Michigan saw that Penn State had the second-best rushing defense in the country, decided it didn’t care, and kept things simple by running for 227 yards and three rushing touchdowns. McCarthy went 7-of-8 for 60 yards, the last passing attempt coming at the 7:41 mark in the second quarter.

Highlights: Michigan batters, bullies Penn State

Meanwhile, Penn State hasn’t shown it feels comfortable giving QB Drew Allar the keys to the offense. The first-year starting quarterback played hesitantly and completed just 10-of-22 pass attempts for 70 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 49 yards and added a rushing score.

Allar is 19 years old and it takes time to grow in an offense. But in Penn State’s biggest games this season against Ohio State and now Michigan, Allar hasn’t been put in the best situations to win. Against the Buckeyes, he went 18-of-42 for 191 yards and a touchdown and was emotional after the loss. Allar was more confident last week in a win over Maryland where he went 25-of-34 for 240 yards with four touchdowns. But against Michigan, he was under duress the entire game and never got into a rhythm.

— Michigan’s interim head coach Sherrone Moore was very emotional after the win.

"I want to thank coach Harbaugh," Moore said through tears. "I f------ love you, man. We did this for you."

'We did this for you' – Michigan acting HC Sherrone Moore was emotional after win vs. Penn State

Michigan is relishing its role now as the villain of college football amid the sign-stealing scandal that has resulted in Harbaugh’s suspension, and the players are feeling motivated to keep rolling. The Wolverines have regular season games left against Maryland on the road and then at home against Ohio State in what is expected to be an epic and dramatic showdown.

"We’re going to keep going," said running back Blake Corum, who had 26 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns. "Everything that’s going on right now will just bring us together. …  This team is full of fighters."

— Did the Wolverines miss Harbaugh? The obvious answer is yes. Of course you miss your head coach. Michigan still won, but there were a few times when having Harbaugh there might have made a difference.

Take the third-and-10 decision in the third quarter. Moore decided to run instead of pass, Michigan didn’t get the first down and was forced to kick a field goal when it would have preferred a touchdown. What would Harbaugh have done there instead? Later, Michigan started the fourth quarter at its own 5-yard line and elected to stick with the run instead of calling some pass plays for McCarthy. Unable to get a first down, Michigan had to punt with the score a little too close for comfort.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Michigan played smash-mouth football and remains unbeaten. But there was also some luck involved that the Nittany Lions didn’t force a turnover and their lone passing touchdown of the day came when it was too little too late.

FINAL: Michigan beats Penn State on the road, 24-15

Michigan got its first top-10 win of the season on the road in a hostile environment without its head coach. Despite Jim Harbaugh’s suspension, this is a quality win in the eyes of College Football Playoff selection committee members, who can now lay to rest the theme that "Michigan hasn’t played anybody" this season. 

Looking ahead, the Wolverines can regroup with their new reality that it might not have Harbaugh coaching in the next two games against Maryland and Ohio State, depending on what happens with the court hearing on Friday.

1:59 4Q: Touchdown Penn State!

Drew Allar led the Nittany Lions on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by his first passing touchdown of the day. Penn State’s two-point conversion failed, as did the onside kick attempt, so Michigan still has a fairly comfortable 24-15 lead.

Is it too little too late for Penn State?

4:21 4Q: Game, set, match

On fourth-and-6, trailing 17-9, Penn State went for it instead of punting it away. QB Drew Allar threw an incomplete pass to an empty space, turning it over on downs and giving Michigan the ball at the Penn State 30-yard line. On the very next play, Michigan running back Blake Corum ran for his second big run of the day, taking it 30 yards to the house to give the Wolverines a 24-9 lead.

Michigan's Blake Corum rushes for a 30-yard TD

4:53 4Q: Michigan punts … again

Michigan has now run the ball 26 straight times and there are no signs of that changing with less than five minutes to go. Penn State will get another crack at it.

8:14 4Q: McCarthy limping

As we said earlier, Michigan is really committed to sticking with the run game no matter what. J.J. McCarthy attempted one pass on this drive, but there was a penalty on the play so it didn’t count. Moore called six run plays — on a 7-yard rush on second-and-17, McCarthy’s leg got caught by Kobe King and the QB was gimpy after the play. Now Michigan has to punt as it clings to a 17-9 lead.

13:46 4Q: Michigan has to punt

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy has not attempted a pass since the 7:41 mark in the second quarter. Pinned at its own 3-yard line, Michigan decides to run on all three attempts and is forced to punt on its first series of the fourth quarter.

End 3Q: Not the response Penn State needed

After holding Michigan to a field goal on the previous drive, Penn State couldn’t convert on third-and-8 and had to punt. Riley Thompson’s 51-yard punt pinned the Wolverines at their own 3-yard line, and after a short two-yard rush by J.J. McCarthy, Michigan will get the ball at its own 5-yard line to start the fourth quarter.

3:36 3Q: Michigan kicks field goal to take 17-9 lead

Interim head coach Sherrone Moore and Michigan have committed to the run at this point because it can (this is despite Penn State entering this matchup with the nation’s second-best rush defense).

On its first series of the second half, the Wolverines ran more than eight minutes off the clock by running the ball on all 13 plays. On a fourth-and-1, J.J. McCarthy was looking for the pass, but had nowhere to go, so he scrambled for a 9-yard gain and first down at the Penn State 20. 

On second-and-8, McCarthy ran for another 9 yards for another first down. But on a third-and-10 from PSU 10, Moore elected to run it again instead of pass, and ultimately, Michigan had to settle for a 22-yard field goal.

After a big defensive stop, Penn State’s offense needs to respond — quickly.

11:40 3Q: Penn State commits first turnover of the day

We knew something had to give in the second half. And on Penn State’s opening drive, Drew Allar fumbled when Rayshaun Benny knocked the ball loose. Makari Paige recovered it and now Michigan will start its next drive from the Nittany Lions’ 49-yard line.

Halftime notes:

— For all the pregame hoopla surrounding Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, his team has been aggressive and come out with a balanced offensive attack. Running backs Blake Corum (nine touches for 64 yards and a touchdown) and Donovan Edwards (five carries for 43 yards and a TD) have gone right at Penn State’s top-ranked rushing defense. Meanwhile, quarterback J.J. McCarthy has been accurate, completing 7-of-8 passes for 60 yards. Asked during the "Big Noon Kickoff" halftime show if he thinks Michigan misses Harbaugh, Urban Meyer said, "They’re doing a great job. They don’t really miss him right now."

— Penn State appears committed to running the football and has been conservative with their play calling when it comes to 19-year-old QB Drew Allar. The first-year starter is 3-of-7 for 31 yards, but executed some important plays on the last drive before halftime that resulted in the Nittany Lions’ first touchdown of the day. Can they carry that momentum into the second half, especially if Penn State gets behind and has to throw it? The Nittany Lions get the ball to start the third quarter.

— The shoe has to drop in the second half for one of these teams. There haven’t been any turnovers and few penalties so far, and neither defense has been able to get to the quarterback consistently. Will Michigan start taking shots downfield? Will Allar be asked to make plays with his arm, not just his legs? Does Michigan wear down Penn State like it did in the second half last year in Ann Arbor? A year ago, Michigan led 16-14 at halftime and ended up winning 41-17. We’re about to find out.

End 2Q: Penn State shows life! Scores TD before halftime

Penn State converted two fourth downs via some creative play calling by offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich on the way to scoring its first touchdown of the game. On fourth-and-6, Drew Allar hit Kaden Saunders for 13 yards, and then on a fourth-and-1, Penn State used some trickery when Allar pitched the ball to Kaytron Allen, who tossed it back to Allar for 4 yards and a first down. 

On the next play, Allar ran it up the middle for an 11-yard score with 29 seconds left in the first half. Penn State failed the ensuing two-point conversion but now has some momentum heading into the break.

Penn State's Drew Allar scrambles for an 11-yard TD

6:07 2Q: Another TD for the Wolverines

Michigan goes right down the field and scores another TD to take a 14-3 lead, thanks to a couple of explosive runs. The first was on second-and-8 when Blake Corum cut back and took off for a 44-yard gain, a play in which Michigan brought in a defensive lineman to block. Three plays later, Donovan Edwards took off for a 22-yard run to the end zone for the score.

Heading into this game, Penn State had only allowed two runs of 20 yards or more, which was third-best in the country. The Wolverines already have three.

Michigan's Donovan Edwards breaks off a 22-yard TD run

10:26 2Q: Penn State responds with 3-and-out

Penn State needed a response after Michigan’s TD, but instead, the Nittany Lions went three-and-out on the next drive. Kaytron Allen started off with a promising 9-yard run, but then Drew Allar failed to get the first down on a third-and-short.

11:56 2Q: Touchdown Michigan! Wolverines lead 7-3

After failing to run it up the middle, Michigan does just that on Blake Corum’s 3-yard score to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive. The highlight of the possession, though, was Donovan Edwards’ 22-yard run that got Michigan down to the Penn State 27-yard line.

This was Corum’s 17th touchdown of the season — he leads the nation in rushing TDs — and has scored one in each of Michigan’s games so far this season.

Blake Corum rushes up the middle for a 3-yard TD

End 1Q: Michigan is driving

Clearly, it seems getting QB J.J. McCarthy out of the pocket is the way Michigan is going to be successful against Penn State today. Manny Diaz’s defense is clogging up the middle and overtaking the Wolverines' O-Line. But just before the end of the first quarter, McCarthy rolled out and hit Cornelius Johnson for 13 yards, and then a few plays later, used his legs on third down and rushed for a 13-yard gain.

2:17 1Q: Penn State takes 3-0 lead with FG, Michigan defense gets massive stop

Penn State’s first-year starting quarterback Drew Allar marched his offense 66 yards down the field in 13 plays and ultimately had to settle for a 20-yard field goal. Allar completed just one pass for 19 yards and used his legs on two other plays, but relied heavily on running back Nick Singleton.

Michigan’s defense held firm in the red zone and prevented Penn State from gaining significant momentum in the first quarter.

8:41 1Q: Lots of pressure to start

Michigan’s offense hasn’t been able to get anything going on its first two drives. Right tackle Karsen Barnhart has been beaten a few times in the first two series, the last being when Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson blew by him to put QB J.J. McCarthy under duress and cause his third-down pass to be batted down. 

The Nittany Lions’ defensive line has been strong to start, getting pressure on McCarthy and holding Blake Corum to 7 yards on four carries.

It hasn’t been much better for Penn State’s offense, though, which was three-and-out on its first series. So far, it’s been three possessions and three punts combined for both teams.

11:43 1Q: Penn State's defense starts off strong

And away we go!


While drama is surrounding Michigan, QB J.J. McCarthy is focused on winning, and has an eye on the Heisman race.

J.J. McCarthy talks about adversity Michigan faces

Meanwhile, Penn State's star running backs talked about their program's special legacy.

Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton are ready to carry on the legacy of Penn State

Penn State head coach James Franklin talked about how his job was keeping his players focused on the game and not the Harbaugh situation. 

Penn State coach James Franklin on Jim Harbaugh suspension

Michigan acting head coach Sherrone Moore said his players were ready to go with or without Harbaugh. And Charles Woodson said the whole saga would be an advantage for Michigan.

'Big Noon Kickoff' crew discusses the Jim Harbaugh situation

J.J. McCarthy didn't look rattled, and neither did Charles Woodson.

Penn State fans were coming strong and early, leaning into the sign-stealing story with many clever signs of their own.

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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