Penn State’s hopes of an undefeated season were dashed on Saturday, as it fell to Minnesota 31-26.
The Nittany Lions opening drive on both sides of the ball foreshadowed how the game would go. Offensively, Penn State was able to move the ball — it totaled over 400 yards of offense. But a skipped pass, a dropped ball, or an untimely turnover killed potential scoring drives.
And unlike in past games, Penn State’s defense was not there to save the day.
On the first defensive series, Penn State safety Garrett Taylor was late to rotate in the backend, and end up giving up a touchdown to Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman. This, unfortunately, was a reoccurring theme throughout the day, as the Nittany Lions’ secondary took turns being burnt on short, intermediate, and deep pass plays.
There was hope, though! Down 31-19, Penn State put together a scoring drive to make it 31-26. On the following series, the Nittany Lions’ defense produced their first three-and-out of the season, giving the offense one last drive to win the game. While the offense moved the ball down to the 11, an offensive pass interference on Daniel George pushed the Penn State offense back to the 24. Two plays later, Sean Clifford tossed his third interception of the game, which effectively ended Penn State’s dream of an undefeated season.
Big picture wise, this certainly hurts Penn State’s chances of making the College Football Playoff. But the goal of winning the Big Ten remains the same: win out — including in Columbus — and the Nittany Lions will be going to the Big Ten Championship at 11-1.
The issue? The Penn State team that showed up today won’t have a shot in h-e-double-hockey-sticks of beating the Buckeyes. The offense wasn’t consistent enough, and perhaps most worrisome, is that the “elite” defense didn’t look elite at all.
Get bitter or get better. Hopefully, Penn State gets better.