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Published: Sunday, 9/23/2007

Wolverines back on track

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan's Mike Hart stretches the ball across the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Wolverines' victory. Michigan's Mike Hart stretches the ball across the goal line in the fourth quarter of the Wolverines' victory.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge

ANN ARBOR - Done licking their wounds after two embarrassing losses to open the season, the Michigan Wolverines have spent the last two weeks handing a few out to the opposition.

Suddenly, the team that didn't look like it could stop anyone defensively is playing like it could stop anybody.

Tenth-ranked Penn State discovered yesterday that the Wolverine squad it saw struggling was a far cry from the one it met at Michigan Stadium yesterday in a 14-9 loss before a crowd of 111,310.

It was the ninth straight loss by the Nittany Lions to Michigan, and the Wolverine defense extended its streak of quarters without allowing a touchdown to nine.

"Our defense was really outstanding," UM coach Lloyd Carr said. "We gave up one play there in the fourth quarter, but they were relentless, they played hard, they tackled well, and they were tenacious. It was a beautiful thing to watch. So, we've made some strides there."

Senior tailback Mike Hart carried the load again offensively, utilizing the solid play of his line to grind out 153 yards on a career-high 44 rushes.

"I'm good," Hart said when asked if he was worn out. "I wanted eight more carries to break the record. I was ready to go. Obviously I'm tired, but I'm not beat up or anything.

"The linemen did a great job. When you have linemen who are getting up to linebackers and up to safeties, it's hard for them to stop us."

Hart's disputed one-yard touchdown run with 8:52 remaining in the game proved to be the game-winning points as UM climbed to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference.

Hart appeared to be stopped short of the goal line before stretching out and placing the ball across. But the officiating crew signaled touchdown, and there was no videotape review.

"I have yet to see it," legendary Lions coach Joe Paterno said. "I was told by my men upstairs that he was a yard short. I asked the referee close to me, and he said he didn't make the call."

Does Michigan have Paterno's number?

"I judge every loss the same way, and I don't like losing," Paterno said. "I wouldn't say they have my number. They just play a strong game against us."

Hart's score was set up by a pass interference call on Penn State's Lydell Sargeant in the end zone one play earlier as Michigan freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett was trying to hit wideout Adrian Arrington.

Mallett, making his second successful start in place of injured fourth-year starter Chad Henne, was effective once again. He completed 16 of his 29 passes for 170 yards, including three for 39 yards on UM's final TD drive, and two huge third-down connections as the Wolverines were trying to close things out late.

Penn State pulled within five points on Kevin Kelly's 31-yard field goal with 6:04 to play. Its final chance failed when Anthony Morelli threw four straight incompletions deep in his own territory in the closing seconds.

The Wolverine defense - much maligned in the opening two weeks while yielding 73 points to Appalachian State and Oregon - used the momentum gained from last week's 38-0 whitewash of Notre Dame to set up the game's first touchdown.

On the first play of Penn State's second possession, UM used a double dose of Graham on Morelli. Defensive end Brandon Graham's hard hit on Morelli jarred the ball loose and linebacker Chris Graham returned the fumble four yards to the Lions' 10.

After throwing incomplete on first down, Mallett scored his first college TD. He dropped back, pump-faked right, then ran left 10 yards to the end zone 4:31 into the game.

The only other score before the break came when Penn State capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive on Kelly's 28-yard field goal 9:14 before halftime.

The Lions squandered a scoring opportunity in the third quarter. After driving 70 yards to the Michigan 11, Austin Scott lost a fumble with 6:09 left. Penn State made it 7-6 when Kelly hit a 29-yard field goal with 23 seconds left in the third quarter.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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