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Penn State Has Its Way at Michigan

October 16, 1994|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Considering these teams were advertised as Big Ten identical twins, it was no surprise that Saturday's game came down to a quarterback throw-down featuring Collins vs. Collins.

Michigan had Todd, Penn State had Kerry.

When all was said and run, Kerry made the play that counted and Todd didn't, helping third-ranked Penn State escape with a 31-24 victory over fifth-ranked Michigan before 106,382 at Michigan Stadium.

Kerry Collins' 16-yard scoring pass to Bobby Engram with 2:53 remaining was the winning play. A Todd Collins pass, intercepted by cornerback Brian Miller at the Penn State 38 with 1:26 left, ended Michigan's hopes.

The rest was a wash. The Wolverines totaled 437 yards to Penn State's 444.

Tyrone Wheatley, Michigan's great back, gained 144 yards in 19 carries. Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State's rambling wreck, finished with 165.

Penn State (6-0) posted its 680th victory. Michigan (4-2) holds at 743.

Although Michigan held Penn State to 20 points below its season average, the Nittany Lions can expect to get a boost in the polls because of No. 1 Florida's loss to Auburn.

"I really don't care about polls," Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said afterward. "We've got five more tough games to play and the polls don't really matter. We'll worry about what the polls have to say after the next five games."

But the game was clearly a turning point in recent Penn State history. The team started 5-0 the previous two seasons and stumbled in Week 6.

"It's been a while since Penn State has won a very big ballgame," Kerry Collins said. "We needed that to get us back into the elite in the country."

It appeared early that Paterno's team was worthy of playing in a higher league. The Nittany Lions scored on their first four possession but had to settle for a touchdown and three Brett Conway field-goal tries, one after a touchdown by Carter was called back because of a holding penalty.

Although thoroughly outplayed, Michigan trailed by only 16-0.

Then, shortly before the half, Penn State linebacker Brian Gelzheiser was called for a late hit on Todd Collins with 10 seconds left after a Michigan drive had stalled.

The Wolverines retained the ball at the Penn State 35. After a 19-yard pass from Collins to Mercury Hayes, Remy Hamilton kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to get Michigan on the board.

It provided more incentive than any speech Michigan Coach Gary Moeller could have offered.

On the second play of the third quarter, Wheatley, held to 11 yards in nine first-half carries, went on a 67-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 16-10.

The momentum was swinging. The Michigan defense held on the next drive and then got a break when Penn State's Joe Jurevicius shanked a punt of 16 yards.

Michigan took over at its 49 and scored in two plays. The set-up was a 30-yard pass from Todd Collins to Amani Toomer.

From the 21, Wheatley burst around right end for his second touchdown. The extra point put Michigan ahead, 17-16, with 10:41 left in the quarter.

"When they score two quick ones, everyone said, 'What's going on?' " said Carter, the Penn State tailback. "They scored like we did in our first five games. But we all stuck in there."

How would Penn State respond playing from behind? Coming in, the Nittany Lions had outscored five opponents, 258 to 86.

The answer came quickly. Led by Collins and Carter, Penn State mounted an 86-yard, 10-play drive and went ahead with 6:27 left in the quarter on a nine-yard pass, Collins to fullback John Witman.

Paterno liked what he saw in his team.

"We talk about it all the time . . . 'It's going to happen to us,' " he said. "If we didn't do something on that drive, I think Michigan would have got another one. The crowd was really into it."

After Penn State made the two-point conversion to lead by 24-17, Michigan did get another one, tying the score with 11:07 left on Tim Biakabutuka's one-yard run on fourth down.

Why didn't Michigan try for a field goal? "At that point, you have to match them point for point," Moeller said.

But Penn State had a point of its own to make. Taking over at its 45 with 4:46 left, the Nittany Lions needed only five plays on their winning drive.

On first down, receiver Engram made a sensational 14-yard catch, somehow managing to get one foot in as his momentum carried him out of bounds.

From the Michigan 41, Carter ran 26 yards.

Then, on third and 11 from the 16, Engram beat corner Deon Johnson on a post route and Collins found him for the winning pass.

Until the final drive, Engram had only one catch in the game.

Paterno said his receiver never pouted. "He stays in the game," Paterno said. "That's the thing about the skill people on this team, they are all so intelligent and play with so much poise."

Michigan got the ball back with 2:53 left. Wheatley did what he could, running for 30 yards on first down.

But on fourth and two from his 42, Todd Collins threw a pass intended for Hayes. Miller intercepted instead, and Penn State held on.

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