Post-game: Penn State's defense looked shaky, than it looked fine. And its offense never looked like much of anything.
Minnesota dropped the Lions to 5-4 Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium with a 24-10 victory over the visitors. It marks the third straight loss for Bill O'Brien's program on the road, and the program's lowest point total since scoring seven in a 2011 loss to Wisconsin.
The Golden Gophers improved to 8-2 and 4-2 in Big Ten play with the victory. They didn't score in the second half, but didn't need to, as Penn State could not convert a fourth-down inside the red zone on one fourth quarter possession, and fumbled on another when the center-quarterback exchange was bad at Minnesota's one-yard line. The Golden Gophers recovered, and ran the final 6:40 off the clock.
State receiver Allen Robinson grabbed seven passes for 63 yards, setting the program's single season receiving record in the process by eclipsing former State wide-out Bobby Engram's mark of 1,084 yards. It's a record that dated back to 1995, but despite it, Robinson was rarely targeted in the second half, and failed to find the end zone.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg finished 14-of-25 for 163 yards, and Zach Zwinak led Penn State with 150 yards on 26 carries. Minnesota quarterback Phillip Nelson threw for a game-high 186 yards and rushed and threw for a score, while back David Cobb paced the Golden Gophers offense with 139 yards on 27 carries and a score.
Penn State returns to the field next Saturday at Beaver Stadium, where the Lions host Purdue at Noon. The quarter-by-quarter recaps can be found below.
PREGAME: It is windy and temperatures are in the 40s. … RB Akeel Lynch is on the trip but is wearing a brace on his right knee. … It looks like Donovan Smith is back in the starting lineup at LT.
Fumble problems plagued Penn State again early Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. So did the inability to make a stop on defense. Yet, at the end of one, Minnesota leads State 10-7.
The Lions took the ball first, but starting back Bill Belton preceded to fumble on the first snap of the drive, leading to a Minnesota 45-yard field goal from Chris Hawthorne. The Golden Gophers would later march 96 yards on 15 plays in 8:10 to swell its lead to 10, capped off by a David Cobb one-yard rush.
State would finally answer, though, in the final minutes of the first quarter, as Zach Zwinak, spelling Belton, broke off runs of nine, 34, and two before rumbling for a 12-yard score. The ball then went back to the hosts, who will continue its third drive when the second quarter resumes.
Ryan Keiser leads State's defense with three tackles, and linebacker Mike Hull is back in the rotation after an early scare prompted him to go off to have his right knee examined. Lions' quarterback Christian Hackenberg is 2-for-2 for 22 yards, while Zwinak has a team high 63-yards rushing. The Golden Gophers lead on the time of possession clock by a 10:34 to 4:26 margin.
Minnesota has had the ball four times at TCF Bank Stadium. And it has 24 points.
The Golden Gophers lead visiting State 24-10 at the half, a late Phillip Nelson touchdown toss - he ran for one earlier in the quarter - marking the fourth straight score by the Golden Gophers. The hosts have scored on drives of three plays, 15, 13, and 11, and have only not covered more than 70 yards once. The one time they didn't, it was thanks to Penn State, who gave Minnesota good field position after Belton's fumble.
The Lions did get on the board in the stanza, as Sam Ficken was true on a 27-yard field goal. Head coach Bill O'Brien had originally considered going for it deep in Minnesota territory, but opted to take the points.
Penn State has struggled to get off the field on third down, as the Golden Gophers are 7-of-10 on third down, and a perfect 2-for-2 on fourth. They have outgained the visitors by a 241-160 count, and have held the ball for 19:20 compared to Penn State's 10:40.
Hackenberg is 5-of-6 for 48 yards, while Zwinak has carried 14 times for 97 yards and a score. Minnesota has been paced by a 12-of-18 for 165 yards effort from Nelson, who has run and tossed for a score. He and Cobb lead the team with 32 rushing yards at the half.
Minnesota will have the ball to start the second half.
There wasn't much to write home about in the third quarter, a bad sign for visiting Penn State, who still trails 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
State punter Alex Butterworth downed a punt inside the one, and Minnesota's Peter Mortell dropped two there, but the neither offense could muster much in the only quarter thus far where points haven't been scored. Though the Lions seemed to have chance.
They had just forced the Golden Gophers to fumble on their side of midfield, a strip from end C.J. Olaniyan the vehicle. But Penn State's drive, which started at the Minnesota 37, went no where fast, as Zwinak carried for no gain on first down, Hackenberg threw an incomplete pass, and then was sacked, leading to Butterworth's 36-yard punt down at the one.
State is driving to begin the fourth quarter.