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Michigan players fueled by the way last year’s Penn State game ended

ANN ARBOR — While Don Brown continues to stew on what went wrong last year against Penn State from a strategic standpoint, his players have their own gripe.

Michigan lost the game in ugly fashion, 42-13, last October in State College, Pennsylvania, and the score could have been worse had the Wolverines not played the full 60 minutes.

That’s because Penn State — starting its final drive of the game from Michigan’s 47-yard line with 3:19 left — elected to run six straight plays down to the 6-yard line. Then, with a second left on the clock, run another play. 

The Wolverines’ defense tackled running back Miles Sanders for a four-yard loss. 

“We still remember,” Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye told reporters this week, ahead of Saturday’s game against No. 14 Penn State (3:45 p.m., ESPN). “Fourth quarter, five seconds left in the game — they had their players in and ran that last play.

“We put that in our back pocket and just remember that every single day.”

Last year’s Penn State game still burns Don Brown

Paye said Brown, Michigan’s defensive coordinator, made sure to pull up the play this week. Paye and his teammates watched as Penn State players smiled and high-fived one another as they tried to score one last time, he said.

One year later, Paye and others are still burning inside over it.

“I don’t know what they were trying to pull, or what message they were trying to send,” Paye said. “But we remembered that every single day.”

Saturday marks the third game in Michigan’s self-proclaimed “revenge tour,” one that so far has included victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State, both ranked opponents that knocked off the Wolverines in 2017.

Penn State — which racked up 506 yards of total offense last year against Michigan — would make it three in a row.

“It’s one of those losses stuck at the top because of the way we lost,” starting safety Josh Metellus said. “It was embarrassing. There’s no other way around it. We shouldn’t have lost like that.”

And that final play?

“I find that as disrespectful,” Metellus said. “There’s two seconds left on the clock and they try to run the ball to run up the score even more. I just take that personally. This game is real personal.”

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Metellus isn’t the only one. Earlier in the week, starting defensive end Chase Winovich — a Pennsylvania native and the one responsible for publicizing this “revenge tour” — was asked about last year’s loss to Penn State.

Admittedly, he did not play his best game. It was the second of five losses last season for a Michigan team that struggled on offense. But it didn’t have to end that way, either.

“It lingers with us everyday,” Winovich said. “It lingered with us in winter conditioning — like what they did at the end of the game (and) tried to score a touchdown.

“But they got to do what they got to do. It’s football. We’re not going to whine about it.”

In a radio interview last week, Brown acknowledged a series of missteps on his end in that Penn State game. He took full responsibility for his defense’s letdown and vowed to fix it.

What followed was Michigan finishing the season with a top-three defense nationally and No. 1 ranked pass defense. Brown’s group is No. 1 in both categories heading into Saturday, and you can be sure revenge will be on the mind of every single Michigan defenseman.

“They disrespected us,” Paye said. “So, we’ve got to come out and show them who we are this year.”

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