Going into the Big Ten matchup, the Golden Gophers had been averaging 326.5 yards rushing per game en route to a 4-0 record. But they finished this game with only 129, 76 of which came in a meaningless fourth quarter of their 44-14 loss.
The Nittany Lion hogs, on the other hand, got great push against the Minnesota defensive line all game on their way to 364 yards on the ground on 59 carries, including two 100-yard rushers in quarterback Michael Robinson and running back Tony Hunt.
I think once we scored the first touchdown, we just all got the mentality that they couldnt stop us, junior tackle Levi Brown said.
Coming into the 2005 season, one of the biggest question marks surrounding Penn State was the play of the offensive line. Starting center E.Z. Smith had been expelled for the summer semester for his involvement in the Arrowgate scandal and did not return to the team until near the end of preseason drills. While the line still boasted several seniors, there wasnt much to get excited about after the play of last years anemic offense.
Around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the question mark that had been looming over the collective head of the Nittany Lion offensive line mysteriously morphed into an exclamation point as the final seconds ticked off the game clock.
It wont be our best [performance] once the seasons over, but its the best so far, Brown said, referring to the play of the offensive line.
You practice hard all week, put that many hours in, its a good feeling to go out there and get that kind of performance, added senior tackle John Wilson, who looked and sounded relieved as he fielded questions from the media.
The Golden Gophers came into Saturdays game much like the Nittany Lions. Both teams had just come away with close victories, Penn State with its last-minute dramatics at Northwestern and Minnesota in a grueling double-overtime win against Purdue. Saturdays game may have been a test of which team had more left in the tank.
Theyre a really good team, Wilson said. All week this offensive line felt like we needed to go out there and produce something.
The game was decided in the first quarter. After Minnesota won the coin toss and decided to receive, the Penn State defense took over. It held the Gophers to three consecutive three and outs on their first three drives, and before the burgundy and gold faithful could look up, the score was 17-0.
Theyre doing a great job right now, quarterback Michael Robinson said of his offensive line. Hopefully theyll keep it up.
On its way to putting together three drives of 13 plays or more, the Penn State offensive line demoralized the Minnesota front seven all afternoon. Penn State held the ball for 35:18, while the Gophers were held well below their season average at 24:42.
I think as a whole offense were coming together, Brown said. Everything is starting to click.