Penn State Ousts Minnesota in OT
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) welcomed the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for a game that promised to serve as a litmus test of sorts for both teams.
Minnesota came into the game undefeated after wins over less-than-impressive opponents in its first three games, and Penn State was coming off of a 49-10 thrashing at the hands of Michigan in Ann Arbor, standing at 2-2. The game was a chance for both teams to see how they’d fare against mid-level Big Ten opponents.
Penn State came away from the game with a new confidence after a thrilling 29-26 overtime victory over the Golden Gophers.
It was an energizing win for a Penn State program that sorely needed some life, but it didn’t come easy.
Both teams struggled to break through early, with the first points of the game coming from the foot of Minnesota kicker Emmit Carpenter with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The 37-yard field goal gave the Golden Gophers a 3-0 lead.
The ensuing Penn State drive started with a bang, as Trace McSorley (19/41, 335 yards) found a wide open DeAndre Thompkins downfield for a 53-yard completion that got the Nittany Lions to the Minnesota 21.
An offside penalty on 3rd and 2 after an 8 yard Saquon Barkley (20 carries, 63 yards) gave Penn State a first and goal at the Minnesota 8.
Two straight runs by Barkley for 2 and 3 yards followed by a quarterback keeper by McSorley set up a 4th and goal on the one-yard line early in the second quarter.
Instead of going for six, Penn State sent out Tyler Davis and the field goal unit to attempt a 19-yard chip shot.
Davis split the uprights with the kick, tying Sam Ficken’s consecutive made field goal record with 15, but boos rained down from the frustrated crowd that was unhappy with the conservative decision to kick.
Later in the second quarter, Minnesota put together a 9 play, 63-yard drive capped off by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner (24/40, 241 yards) to Drew Wolitarsky that gave Minnesota a 10-3 lead with 2:06 left in the first half.
Penn State failed to make anything of their next drive, and Minnesota regained possession with 1:13 to play in the half.
With all three timeouts in their pocket, the Golden Gophers methodically marched down the field on a 9 play, 70-yard drive that concluded with a 35-yard field goal from Carpenter, giving Minnesota a 13-3 lead heading into the half.
Penn State received to start the second half, but quickly went three and out deep in their own territory.
After the disappointing start to the second half, things started to turn around for the Nittany Lions.
On their next possession, McSorley hit Irvin Charles for an 80-yard touchdown. It was Penn State’s longest touchdown pass since 2010, and cut the Minnesota lead to 13-10.
The Nittany Lion defense came up big on the next drive, getting two straight tackles in the backfield and breaking up a pass on third down. The touchdown and the defensive performance brought the beleaguered Beaver Stadium crowd back into the game.
Penn State rode the momentum to a five play, 33-yard drive that resulted in a Tyler Davis field goal that broke Sam Ficken’s Penn State consecutive made Field goal record with his 16th in a row. That tied the game at 13.
On the next drive, Penn State would lose a player due to targeting for the second consecutive week. Curtis Cothran was ejected from the game in the third quarter after a hit on Minnesota quarterback Leidner was deemed late and to be targeting Leidner’s head.
The Cothran-less Penn State defense still stopped the Gophers, forcing a punt.
The Nittany Lions continued their strong second half offensive performance on the ensuing drive. On second and ten from the Penn State 41, McSorley hit a wide open Mike Gesicki for a 53-yard completion that brought Penn State to the Minnesota 6. McSorley capped of the drive one play later with a six-yard touchdown run, giving Penn State its first lead of the day at 20-13.
On the ensuing kickoff, Penn State kicker Joey Juilis was hit late by Minnesota’s Jalen Waters. The play was nowhere near Julius and Waters, and the latter laid a big hit on the former. Waters was ejected from the game.
Minnesota stole back some momentum on their next possession, tying the game back up at 20 on a 37-yard touchdown run by Shannon Brooks a minute and a half into the fourth quarter. .
After an unsuccessful Penn State drive, Minnesota was driving and was primed to take the lead when Jordan Smith intercepted a Leidner pass in the end zone. The interception was the first of Smith’s collegiate career, and got the Nittany Lions out of a defensive red zone situation.
On the ensuing drive, McSorley found Godwin for a 32-yard gain, but Penn State was stifled and punted on fourth and 14 from its 43-yard line.
The Golden Gophers got the ball back with 5:34 remaining in the game, and drove down the field with the help of a 15-yard facemask penalty, setting up a 37-yard field goal that Carpenter booted through the uprights with 55 seconds remaining to retake the lead, 23-20.
The Penn State offense quickly got to 3rd and 10 after starting the drive at the 25, but McSorley and Godwin once again connected, this time on a miraculous diving catch at the Penn State 45-yard line.
“The line gave him (McSorley) enough time to get it up in the air,” Godwin said. “Then I saw it and I was like, ‘it’s up to me to go make it.’ I’m just glad I was able to make the play for my team.
After a 7 yard pass to Thompkins and a spike, McSorley made a game saving play with a 26 yard run to the Minnesota 22-yard line and got out of bounds with 11 seconds to go. After an incomplete pass intended for Godwin ran the clock down to 7 seconds left in the game, Tyler Davis lined up for a game-tying 40-yard field goal attempt.
Davis nailed his third kick of the day and his 17th in a row, tying up the game with just one second on the clock.
Penn State squibbed the kickoff, and the two teams headed to overtime.
The Nittany Lions won the coin toss, and elected to defend first. The Penn State defense was stout in Minnesota’s overtime possession, sacking Leidner and forcing an incomplete pass on third down.
Minnesota again called on Carpenter, this time for a 46-yard field goal. Like the three previous times on Saturday, Carpenter delivered, giving Minnesota a 26-23 lead.
Penn State began their overtime possession knowing that a touchdown would win the game, and wasted no time. On the first play of the Nittany Lion possession, McSorley handed the ball to Barkley on a read option.
Barkley hit an open hole up the middle, and evaded three Minnesota defenders on his way to a 25-yard touchdown run, winning the game 29-26 for Penn State.
After the game, James Franklin spoke about the mentality of his team despite some of its shortcomings.
“There’s a lot of things obviously that we gotta get cleaned up, but the most important thing is that these guys believe in themselves,” Franklin said. “They believe in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So, that was big.”
Penn State returns to action on Saturday when they welcome Maryland to Beaver Stadium for their homecoming game. Kickoff is at noon, and you can hear it on ComRadio.
John McHugh is a senior studying broadcast journalism. You can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.