Penn State (3-2, 1-1) defeats Minnesota (3-1, 0-1) 29-23 (OT)
Few mood swings could ever equal those which were elicited by this game. The 80,000 rabid fans at St. Joe Memorial Stadium at Beaver got more than their money’s worth. In the end, a decimated defense would intercept a crucial Minnesota pass in the red zone to turn the tide away from what surely looked like a loss and then stave off a Minnesota overtime touchdown drive, while a much maligned quarterback and a frustrated star running back who were shut down most of the game rose to the occasion when everything was on the line. Such were the changing tides for the Penn State Nittany Lions, who initially came out of the tunnel as flat as a pancake and after sleepwalking through the first half, took charge when charge needed to be taken.
Here in The Cave, it was hard not to overdo the alcohol in the first half, a couple of boring stanzas that ambled to a close with previously undefeated Minnesota leading 10-3. Third-downitis was once again evident for the Staties, who couldn’t seem to get a break. They didn’t convert a single third down during the first half. Trace McSorley’s passes were well off the mark, and Minnesota’s defense had decided to sell out to stop the Saquon Barkley run. Meanwhile, the running Gophers were galloping up and down the field in what would wind up being a 100+ yard day for their two rotating feature backs, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks.
The Penn State offense finally got going in the third quarter, down 13-3. Then the game got a lot more exciting. The Nittany Lions had 190 yards of offense in the third quarter alone, 156 of them on deep passes. And the defense, depleted as it was, came to play in the fourth quarter, when they stopped an ominous Gopher drive at the 13 yard-line, as Jordan Smith intercepted a Mitch Leidner pass that would have set up a potential winning touchdown with the game tied at 20-20 at 3:51. However, the Golden Gophers were not giving up easily. After a three-and-out by the Lions, Minnesota ground out 58 yards into field goal range in a clock-eating strategic drive for what they thought would be the final 3-pointer, the successful conversion of which made the score 23-20 with 54 seconds on the clock. Penn State head coach James Franklin had used his timeouts to advantage to have that much time for Penn State’s last gasp. That sparked the PSU offense and particularly quarterback Trace McSorley, who commanded the 53-yard desperation drive needed to put Mr. Automatic, Tyler Davis, on the field to kick the tying field goal in the waning seconds of regulation time.
Penn State won the toss, electing to defend first in overtime. Minnesota chose to play in the quieter, student-free end of St. Joe Memorial. The Nittany Lion defense held Minnesota to a field goal on its possession in overtime, leaving it to the PSU offense to go for it all, which they did on the very first play. Saquon Barkley, on whom the Golden Gophers had put the defensive clamps all day, got the ball from McSorley and scampered 25 yards to the end zone, for a highly entertaining and most satisfying win. Penn State walked off the field with the vaunted Governors’ Victory Bell and a newly energized attitude. Let’s hope the mood swing stays swung in that direction henceforth.
This was just the shot in the arm the Nittany Lions needed as they prepare for the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (4-0, 1-0).
I’ll be back with a preview of the battle with the Turtles.
Big Al says
This win was a great tribute to the courage and persistence of the players. Not until Barkley crossed the goal line did I ever think Penn State would win. Like the Ohio State overtime game, I figured Penn State would have to settle for field goals after getting 1st and goal inside the 5 yard line and/or Minnesota would eventually wear down the defense and score at will.
But unfortunately, this game was an also an indictment of Jo Mo’s one dimensional, big play or bust offensive scheme. State simply cannot effectively run the ball or make extended drives that give the defense a rest. Yes, the total offensive yardage was impressive, but more than half of it came from five big plays of 80, 55, 53, 36, and 25 yards. The Kool Aid drinkers will point to Barkey’s touchdown as proof that State’s insipid read option (which is apparently the ONLY running play in Morehead’s offense) works, but I would respond that even a blind squirrel can sometimes find an acorn. I imagine only worked because the Gophers never thought State would be stupid enough to run it AGAIN on 1st down after theGophers had stuffed it the last 10 times State ran it.
I’ll be surprised if Barkley makes it to the Moo U game with the beating he’s taking running that POS option. And this offense isn’t contributing to the health of the defensive players either. The constant 3 plays and a punt, or 5 plays and a score is keeping the defense on the field far too long (although to be fair, the defense’s own shitty tackling has exacerbated the problem.) Michigan ran 84 offensive plays to State’s 55 plays. And Minnesota ran 90 offensive plays to State’s 69 plays. State may not have any healthy linebackers if this discrepancy continues through the rest of the B1G schedule.
The Nittany Turkey says
Maryland is averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground, but their first four opponents were Howard, FIU, UCF, and Purdue. Only UCF was able to hold the Terps to just 30 points. I hope the Penn State defense, decimated as it is, can limit them to 24 or less, because this PSU offense is not likely to be able to score the 30 or more points per game we’ve demanded of it.