Don’t let the rankings fool you, because it looks like Minnesota has been the team ranked fourth in the nation by the College Football Playoff selection committee after one half of play. No. 17 Minnesota has simply been dominant against No. 4 Penn State after 30 minutes and they reach halftime fired up with a 24-13 lead on the Nittany Lions.
The first three minutes of the game could not have gone much better for Minnesota. The Gophers forced the first turnover of the game when Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off a deep ball thrown up for grabs by Sean Clifford at the Minnesota five-yard line. Minnesota cashed in on the turnover in a big way with Tanner Morgan completed a 66-yard pass to a streaking Radhod Bateman, who had nothing but daylight in front of him after a late defender missed a tackle on the sideline. It was the first touchdown allowed by Penn State in the first quarter this season, and it was a big one.
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons did not start the game for the Nittany Lions. according to the update from the broadcast, Parsons missed the start of the game for what was described as a “behavioral modification issue.” Parsons got on the field on Penn State’s second defensive series. Even with Parsons back on the field, Minnesota’s offense was not intimidated. After Journey Brown ran for a game-tying 45-yard touchdown for Penn State, Minnesota’s offense drove 87 yards for a second touchdown in the first quarter. A bubble screen from Morgan to Chris Autman-Bell went 21 yards to regain the lead, 14-7.
Winfield picked off Clifford again in the second quarter to kill a promising drive for Penn State that was one play from settling for a field goal at worst. A big return on the interception gave the confident Gophers offense good field position, and a 38-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Johnson gave Minnesota a 21-10 lead midway through the second quarter. After the defense forced a three-and-out on Penn State’s ensuing possession, Minnesota tacked on a field goal by Brock Walker to take a 14-point advantage, Penn State’s biggest deficit of the season.
Minnesota gets the ball to start the second half.
If Maryland was ready to make a statement tonight against No. 12 Penn State, this isn’t the statement they wanted to make. The Nittany Lions have been in full control of the game from the start and lead Maryland 38-0 at halftime in College Park.
Penn State’s defense has been dominant by holding the home team to fewer than 100 yards and forcing a pair of turnovers. Penn State has intercepted Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson twice, including one near the endzone on Maryland’s most promising offensive series of the first half. The defense came up with a big play on the game’s opening possession when Jan Johnson intercepted Jackson on the fifth play of the game. The return took the ball to the Maryland 44-yard line and a pair of penalties on Maryland moved the ball all the way to the nine-yard line. Sean Clifford kept the ball himself and ran up the middle for a touchdown on the first play after the turnover, and it was off to the races for Penn State.
Penn State scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the game, and five of their six first-half possessions. Clifford completed passes to KJ Hamler for 58 yards and Journey Brown for 37 yards and touchdowns where the receiver racked up yards after the catch. Ricky Slade and Nick Bowers have also scored for Penn State.
The first half also saw a player from each team ejected for targeting. Penn State’s Micah Parsons was tossed in the first quarter for a hit on Jackson. Maryland’s Deon Jones was ejected in the second quarter for a hit on Penn State receiver Justin Shorter. Both players will be eligible to return to their teams in their next game.
Maryland has also had some injury issues. Offensive lineman Marcus Minor was helped off the field to the locker room, and Lorenzo Harrison had to go into the medical tent in the first half.
Because the rules require it, there will be 30 more minutes of football played in College Park tonight.
There are a number of things on the recruiting trail it is usually best not to overanalyze. This may not be one of them.
Defensive end Micah Parsons, one of the top-rated players in the Class of 2018 and the top-rated recruit in the state of Pennsylvania according to Rivals, is currently committed to Penn State, but Nittany Lions fans following the recruiting updates may be a tad more worried about losing Parsons to a division rival than ever before. Parsons shared an image on Twitter of his new dog, which he named Brutus. Sound familiar?
Brutus is the name of Ohio State’s mascot. Is this purely a coincidence, or is there a not-so-hidden meaning to it all? Given the naming of the dog and supposed recent interest in Ohio State, this may be more writing on the wall for an eventual commitment flip within the Big Ten East. But we’ll keep an eye on Parsons and his journey to signing day to see how it all plays out.
Had he named the dog Nittany, however, Penn State fans would probably be a little more at ease.