Enthusiastic freshman helping Wolverines win

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Ryan Mallett had just finished his second game as a starter at Michigan, and the enthusiastic freshman was ready for more.

“I’m excited,” he said Saturday after helping the Wolverines beat Penn State 14-9. “Let’s play again.”

Mallett might get a chance to channel his energy on the field for a little longer.

With upcoming games at Northwestern and against Eastern Michigan, coach Lloyd Carr might give Chad Henne more time to rest an injured knee that has kept him out for 2 games.

Carr said Henne, who took some snaps last week in practice, is day-to-day. Mallett said he is ready to go back to the sideline when the senior is healthy enough to return.

In the meantime, he is going to keep playing with moxie rarely seen from young quarterbacks and with confidence he can make any throw on the field.

“If I had an arm like that, I would think the same thing,” receiver Adrian Arrington said after catching six passes for 70 yards from Mallett.

Mallett has helped Michigan (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) get back to .500 after opening with a stunning loss to second-tier Appalachian State and a lopsided setback against Oregon.

Beating Penn State and shutting out Notre Dame 38-0 wasn’t enough to put the Wolverines back in The Associated Press poll’s Top 25, which had them No. 5 in the preseason, but they did send the Nittany Lions tumbling in the rankings.

Penn State (3-1, 0-1) dropped to No. 21 from the 10th spot last week. Michigan got 21 votes in the poll.

Joe Paterno has lost nine straight games to Michigan, the longest winning streak by one team over the famed coach and almost doubling the second-best run against him.

“I wouldn’t say they have my number,” Paterno insisted. “They just play a strong game against us.”

The Nittany Lions blew chances to stop the streak.

They couldn’t do enough to score a touchdown, settling for three field goals, and Austin Scott lost his fourth fumble of the year, giving Michigan the ball at its 9 midway through the third quarter.

Kevin Kelly made all three of his field goals, and was disappointed he didn’t attempt one in the first quarter.

After a Penn State fumble was overturned by video review, the Lions drove to the Michigan 25. A sack and dropped pass led to Paterno choosing to punt instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal, 1 yard short of Kelly’s career high.

“I was a little shocked,” Kelly said. “I have no reasoning why coach made that call. I didn’t miss a field goal all week.”

The Wolverines didn’t miss a chance to give Mallett grief about the way he went into the end zone on his 10-yard run to start the scoring.

Mallett pump faked to the right – after saying he missed an open receiver – and ran to the left untouched. As Mallett crossed the goal line, he flipped the football underhanded.

“I was just excited. I shouldn’t do that,” he said. “I should’ve just handed it to the ref.”

That’s what 6-foot-7, 315-pound tackle Jake Long told him.

“I was like, ‘I’m sorry, Jake. Don’t hurt me,'” Mallett said.