Defense Buries Gophers

Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney was leading the nation in rushing yards per game (174.5) and all-purpose yards per game (220.7) heading into Saturday's clash with Penn State. Saying he was the focal point of the Nittany Lion defense would be an understatement of colossal proportions.

“That's something that we took a lot of pride in, trying to stop all of the hype and just prove who we are,” senior safety Chris Harrell said after the game.

The great preparation and high intensity of the Penn State defense was as clear as the cloudless blue sky that hung above Beaver Stadium, as the hard-hitting unit held Minnesota's supposedly unstoppable running game to 113 yards on 32 carries, marking the first time the Golden Gophers had been held to under 300 yards rushing this year.

The defense held its ground early, especially the defensive line, which consistently got a great push while holding Minnesota to three and out on iits first three possessions and giving the offense a chance to pull away early.

“That was a great start for us,” said junior linebacker and captain Paul Posluszny, who followed up his monster 22-tackle game at Northwestern with nine more Saturday. “I think our defensive line set the tone of the game right then and there. They dominated the line of scrimmage, and that brought us right through the rest of the game.”

Maroney was held to eight yards on five carries in the first quarter, and the Penn State offense took advantage. Penn State's touchdown with 8:53 left in the first quarter marked the first time all season that Minnesota was scored on in the opening stanza. The Nittany Lions would score three more times before the end of the second quarter.

Maroney had just 14 yards on seven carries in the first half, mainly because the Penn State offense was keeping long drives going and subsequently giving their defensive counterparts some much appreciated rest.

“They kept us off the field a lot, so we were going in fresh,” defensive tackle Jay Alford said.

Maroney ended the game with 48 yards on 16 carries, his first sub-100 yard rushing game since the 2004 season. He may have been tired, considering he was coming off a double-overtime game against Purdue the week before, a game in which he gained 217 yards on 46 carries — both career highs.

“He wasn't really hitting the hole like he wanted to,” said Alford, who had the game's only sack.

“One thing we wanted to do was contain him, keep him in between the tackles and not let him run outside,” added Posluszny, as the gash on the crown of his nose leaked its standard Saturday afternoon blood.

For the most part PSU did keep him between the tackles, and on the few occasions the Heisman candidate got outside, he was consistently met by swarms of Penn State defenders. The safeties played shallow all day, as Chris Harrell and Lowry had eight and nine tackles respectively, showing the respect that Penn State had for Minnesota's punishing ground attack.

Saturday's win marked the first time that Penn State had beaten a Top-25 opponent since its defeated Wisconsin in 2002. The Lions also established themselves as a physical force in the Big Ten, just in time for next week's primetime match up against Ohio State.

“Hopefully were sending the message that Penn State is back,” Posluszny said.


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