It was a cold and wet day for mid October with several inches of snow on the ground from the day before. The homecoming crowd was subdued from the cold drizzle falling on their faces, but their hearts were warmed by a dominating performance by the Nittany Lions as Penn State turned in a rare shutout over the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.
The Penn State defense set the tone for the day on the opening series when Josh Hull intercepted an Adam Weber pass, giving the Lions excellent field position at the Minnesota 34 yard line. Though the offense sputtered and couldn't advance the ball, the Gophers were put on notice that every yard would have to be earned.
Evan Royster ignited Penn State's second drive with a 35 yard gain down the right sideline out of a Power I formation. But a few erratic throws by Clark and a sack on third down stalled the drive. Collin Wagner salvaged the effort with a career long 47 yard field goal that looked like it wouldn't have been good from 47.5 yards.
Starting from their own 20 on their next drive, Penn State methodically drove down the field in 13 plays, but the drive stalled at the Minnesota 10 yard line where Wagner punched in his second field goal in as many drives. Though Penn State was dominating, it was a nervous feeling to only be up by six points.
But six points would prove to be all the defense needed. Minnesota failed to find success in the running game or the passing attack. As a team they rushed for only 37 yards and a 2.1 yard per carry average. Adam Weber only threw for 101 yards with his star receiver Eric Decker only catching one pass for 42 yards late in the third quarter when the game was comfortably in hand. For the day the Gophers only ran 40 offensive plays and managed only seven first downs.
Penn State's fourth possession was killed by a holding penalty on Lou Eliades and an offsides call on Chaz Powell. Collin Wagners 49 yard field goal attempt fell short by two yards, so it's safe to say his range has been officially established at 47 yards.
Penn State's final drive of the half started at their own nine yard line. Ten plays, later they found themselves facing a 3rd at 2 play at the Minnesota 13 yard line. Clark dropped back to pass and faced heavy pressure. He dumped the ball off to Graham Zug who had to go low to make the catch. The play was originally called incomplete, but video replay showed that Zug managed to get his arm under the ball and make the catch, so Penn State was awarded a first a goal. Even still, it looked like a holding penalty on Wisniewski was going to stall another drive. But on 2nd and goal from the 13 Clark threw to Moye in the endzone. The officials ruled the catch out of bounds, but again the play was reviewed, and again the call on the field was overturned. Replays showed Moye indeed caught the ball and dragged his right foot inbounds for the touchdown. Penn State would take a 13-0 lead into the half.
Both teams traded insignificant possessions to start the third quarter. Then the Penn State offense got in gear again. Starting from their own 15 yard line they marched on a 13 play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes off the clock. Daryll Clark punched the ball in the endzone on a quarterback sneak to give the Nittany Lions a 20 point lead to end the scoring.
But there was still work to be done to protect the shutout. Minnesota responded with a drive of their own, highlighted by the 42 yard pass to Decker over the middle. A few plays later the Gophers had a 1st and goal at the PSU 8 yard line. But some stellar play by the cornerbacks would prevent Minnesota from scoring. On first down, D'Anton Lynn blanketed Brandon Green in the endzone forcing an incomplete pass from Weber. On second down Stephon Morris showed good aggressiveness in breaking up a wide receiver screen for little gain. An Adam Weber scramble on third down came up short setting up a fourth and goal play from the half yard line. Weber handed off to Kevin Whaley who raced toward the right pylon. Jerome Hayes got up field taking on two blockers and forcing the play to the outside. Then Navorro Bowman and A.J. Wallace converged on the play and stopped Whaley for no gain. The shutout was safe, and the celebration began. Minnesota never threatened to score again.
Overall it was a solid performance by Penn State. They dominated the Gophers on offense and defense. The final score may look disappointing to those just cruising the headlines, but considering the weather conditions and the fact that Penn State started most of their drives deep in their own territory I think Joe Paterno will be pretty happy with this performance.