With less than two minutes to go in the first half and leading 17-3, Penn State had Minnesota in yet another third-and-long situation from the Gophers’ own 12-yard line in the student section portion of the end zone. Minnesota quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis launched a YOLO ball for the left sidelines, which his receiver made an amazing catch despite being covered by Johnnie Dixon as best as one could cover without drawing a pass interference flag. That catch lit a spark in the Gopher offense, as they would finish their drive in the end zone and cut the Nittany Lion lead down to seven points going into the locker room at halftime, snatching the momentum from PSU.
Minnesota received the second half kickoff with a chance to tie the game with another TD drive, but the PSU defense held firm and forced the Gophers to punt it away. The Nittany Lions’ ensuing drive saw them march down to the Minnesota 35-yard line, where Sean Clifford with a man right in his face, let one fly towards the end zone where Parker Washington was engaged in a one-on-one jump ball situation with a Gopher defender. At this point, Yours Truly was thinking “No Cliff, what the hell are you doing?” in anticipation of Cliff throwing his second interception of the night. Instead, Parker got himself into position and made a wonderful leaping grab to corral the ball in the end zone for a momentum-shifting TD that got the White Out crowd going nuts once again.
Parker could not have picked a better time to score his first TD of the season, as it helped open the floodgates: Ji’Ayir Brown would pick off a Kaliakmanis pass on Minnesota’s next drive, which helped set up another Penn State TD drive. The Lions would go on to rack up one more TD to put the game on ice at 38-10 and send the visiting fans to the exits before the fourth quarter had even begun. Sometimes, one critical catch is all it takes to shift momentum and make it a turning point, much like Parker Washington did this past Saturday under the White Out lights.