Michigan vs. Penn State: Score, Analysis for Nittany Lions' Upset Win in 4OT

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVOctober 12, 2013

A wild game between No. 18 Michigan and Penn State couldn't be settled after 60 minutes of play. It couldn't be settled after three overtimes, either.

In what may go down as the game of the year, the Nittany Lions escaped defeat in improbable fashion three separate times to give the Wolverines their first loss of the season in a four-overtime thriller, 43-40.

ESPN's Sportscenter captured the victory:

Huge momentum swings kept both teams in it throughout the chaotic showdown, and it was the home team that swung the first haymaker. Bill O'Brien's squad rode an electric Beaver Stadium crowd to a 21-10 halftime lead on the hot hand of true freshman gunslinger Christian Hackenberg.

Then, the pendulum swung straight toward the Maize and Blue. Nittany Lions rusher Zach Zwinak coughed up the ball on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, which was returned 24 yards to the house by Michigan's Frank Clark.

A couple of traded field goals later, Devin Gardner put the Wolverines on top, 27-24, on a 16-yard strike to Jeremy Gallon that immediately sucked the air out of the more than 100,000 fans in attendance.

ESPN's college football Twitter account captured the play:

Then, before the white-clad audience could blink, Gardner put the Wolverines up two possessions on a 37-yard score to Devin Funchess. 

Needing a score, Penn State set up a 43-yard field goal by Sam Ficken that cut the deficit to seven. 

When Gardner got the ball back, the Wolverines went eight plays and looked to put it out of reach with just two minutes left when they crossed the Nittany Lions' 30-yard line.

But a penalty pushed them out of field goal range, injecting life into Beaver Stadium and giving Hackenberg 50 seconds to work with.

He only needed half of that. A couple of big-time receptions from Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder preceded Hackenberg's 36-yard heave to Robinson on an indescribable catch that set up Hackenberg's one-yard plunge to tie up the game.

The incredible play of the Nittany Lions' wideouts had CBS' Bruce Feldman impressed:

ESPN's Bomani Jones couldn't make sense of yet another late Michigan mishap:

Perhaps ESPN's SportsCenter captured the jaw-dropping moment best:

Somehow, Gardner got Michigan in range for Brendan Gibbons' 52-yarder to win it at the end of regulation. But it came up just short, setting up an overtime for the ages.

There was nothing doing offensively for each side in the first overtime. Nittany Lions kicker Ficken missed a 40-yarder wide right and gave Michigan a chance to end it, but Gibbons' 40-yard try was blocked and gave Penn State a chance.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 12:  Jibreel Black #55 of the Michigan Wolverines sacks Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the game on October 12, 2013 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/G
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Both teams traded field goals—this time both converted—in the second overtime and forced another go-around. 

MLive Michigan beat writer Brendan F. Quinn then made a bold prediction, and it couldn't have ended up being more true in the end:

Then, it was Robinson—the hero of regulation—who couldn't secure the handoff from an end-around on the first play of the third overtime. The Wolverines took over, and only needed a chip shot from 33 yards to stay unbeaten and finally put away their resilient opponent. 

Somehow, someway, the ball cut left and Gibbons' hands on his helmet before the ball reached the uprights told it all: no good. For the third time, Penn State was saved by the football gods. 

Michigan opened up the fourth OT with a field goal, but it was clear O'Brien and company weren't impressed. They faced a fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, and running back Bill Belton converted it to keep the upset bid alive.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated outlined the incredibly gutsy decision by O'Brien:

Four plays later, it was Belton who put the icing on the cake of a masterpiece game with a two-yard score on the left side.

It's tough to make sense of a game that came down to a kicker's foot on three separate instances—and went Penn State's way every time. 

But one thing is certain: O'Brien's squad made plays when they had to. They blocked a field goal with the game on the line, came up with big play after big play and made gutsy calls when the game was in limbo. 

Michigan's unbeaten season had been running on fumes for weeks, after nearly being upset by Akron at home and needing a comeback to top Connecticut. It's not exactly a shocker that the Wolverines leave State College with a blemish on their season, but the way it unfolded certainly made it an unforgettable night.