The Gophers figured to have an easy time with a Penn State team that was battered and bruised in its last game at Wisconsin.
QB Zack Mills had a separated (non-throwing) shoulder and his backup Michael Robinson was out after suffering a serious concussion. The Gophers figured to pound the Nittany Lions into submission with their powerful running game.
But the game did not play out like that.
Though pained and wounded, the Nittany Lions fought hard for 60 minutes and gave Minnesota as much as it could handle. Glen Mason was happy to see his team emerge with a 16-7 victory, even if the critics might have been unimpressed with the margin of victory.
Penn State held Minnesota's vaunted running game to "just" 288 yards, as that unit didn't totally dominate for the first time this season.
"That was the best defense we have played against in a long time," Mason said.
Penn State did not shut down Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber, but it did not allow them to run off big play after big play, either. Maroney ran for 144 yards on 25 carries, while Barber had 88 yards on 21 carries. Both scored touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions had no semblance of a running attack — 21 yards on 22 attempts — and the passing game was held to 250 yards. Penn State appeared to have a chance to climb back into the game until John Pawielski intercepted a pass in the end zone with 3:33 remaining to seal the outcome.
By holding the Nittany Lions to seven points a week after slowing down Northwestern's solid offense, the Gopher defense has confidence going into its game at Michigan this week.
"Defensively, we hung together today," defensive end Darrell Reid told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We stepped up and finally didn't have to have our offense carry us."
Both units are going to have be on top of their games if the Gophers are going to travel to Ann Arbor and come away with the win this week.
GAME BALL GOES TO: S John Pawielski — Pawielski helped put the game away when he intercepted Zack Mills' pass in the end zone during the fourth quarter. The Minnesota defense has played well two weeks in a row. In fact, the 16-7 victory marked the first time the Gophers scored fewer than 20 points and won since beating Michigan State 19-18 in 1998.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Bryan Cupito — After getting the job done in the first four games of the year, Cupito was somewhat ineffective against Penn State. He completed 8-of-18 passes for 113 yards with one interception. That kind of effort will likely get the Gophers beaten at Michigan this week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've never seen an ugly win. Ever."-- Head coach Glen Mason after his team's sluggish offensive performance in the 16-7 win over Penn State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The won-loss record. With the 16-7 win over Penn State, the Gophers are 5-0 for the second consecutive season. They hope to push that record to 6-0 against Michigan, a team that registered a 38-35 come-from-behind victory in the Metrodome a year ago.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Minnesota needs work at protecting PK Rhys Lloyd. The Nittany Lions blocked two of his FG attempts and also knocked down an extra point attempt in the third quarter.
ROSTER REPORT: The Gophers did not appear to suffer any key injuries in the win over Penn State.
Upon Further Review: Penn State
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