It’ll go down in history that Penn State were the team that couldn’t keep the immense pressure on Brady Hoke to resign or be fired, losing 18-13 to Michigan who got a huge push from their fans to help them put on an excellent defensive performance, while Devin Gardner didn’t suddenly become good, but he put on a certainly commendable display despite being evidently banged up.
Yes, another Michigan quarterback had to play injured while the coaching staff didn’t pull him out. This wasn’t the Shane Morris case, playing with a concussion, but Gardner had to be helped off the field a number of times as the Penn State defense kept getting to him. Gardner did throw an interception, almost at the line of scrimmage, but managed to throw a big touchdown pass to Devin Funchess (43 yards) and made a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter which led to field goals that won the game for the Wolverines.
A feeling of desperation in the air. After three consecutive losses, Michigan had to win a game. More than 113,000 packed the Big House. Not all of them were there out of sheer support. Watching a train wreck is always quite appealing to many people, and Brady Hoke’s tenure over the last two seasons seems to be exactly that. There always comes a point when it’s impossible for someone to hold on to his job for so long without showing anything for it.
But Hoke and his players had their moments. After being blasted by the media for over a month when it comes to losses, his character and integrity, Hoke managed to change the discussion, at least for one week. Michigan had an excellent defensive game, keeping Penn State at only 214 yards, including making life very difficult for Christian Hackenberg with just 160 passing yards and one throw getting intercepted.
Michigan came back from 13-10 down in the second quarter to shut out Penn State in the second half, or to me more exact keeping them without a single point for the final 41:58 minutes of the game. It ended with a team safety to cap off the victory, with a lot less empty seats inside the biggest stadium in the country than we’ve gotten used to seeing this season after losses to the likes of Utah and Minnesota.
Will this save Hoke’s job? Maybe for now it’ll put the pressure off of him and his Athletic Director. But there’s a game at Michigan State coming up next. There’s a tricky Northwestern game on the road. There is the Ohio State game to end the season. Michigan need to walk out of that stretch somehow stronger than they are now, and it’s simply hard to see it happening for a team that’s so bad on offense.
Brady Hoke might have bought himself some time, earning a week of not getting asked whether this is his last week on the job. But the last three seasons and especially this one speak for themselves. This narrow win over Penn State is probably just delaying something that’s going to happen no matter how much Hoke tries to avoid it.