Tyler Johnson

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No. 17 Minnesota makes B1G statement in upset of No. 4 Penn State

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The No. 17 Minnesota Golden Gophers (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) didn’t buckle under the pressure of playing the most anticipated home game in program history in decades, if not just generations. Minnesota improved to 9-0 for the first time since going 13-0 in 1904 with a 31-26 victory against No. 4 Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten).

PJ Fleck came to Minnesota with his Row the Boat mentality, and it continues to pay dividends. Minnesota was the more effective offense from start to finish as Penn State’s defense played its worst game of the season. Penn State’s receivers couldn’t hold on to passes when Sean Clifford was able to get a good pass off, but the Gophers secondary continued to do their part to make sure Penn State couldn’t find big plays through the air, as the Gophers have done all season. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Tanner Morgan proved a connection with Rashod Bateman was one of the most reliable connections in the Big Ten, and Penn State couldn’t handle it. Bateman caught seven passes for 203 yards and a touchdown, with first downs on nearly all of his other receptions. Tyler Johnson also went for over 100 yards on seven receptions from Morgan, who ended his day with three touchdowns.

Minnesota’s touchdown drives were no fluke either. The Gophers scored two first-quarter touchdowns on a Penn State defense that had not allowed a first-quarter touchdown all season. Minnesota scored on drives of 95, 87, 61, and 75 yards, with two of those long touchdown drives coming off Penn State interceptions deep in the Minnesota end of the field. Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted Clifford twice inside the Minnesota 10-yard line (one on a deep pass over the middle of the opening drive of the game and the other when Penn State was near the red zone and about to kick a field goal at the very least).

After Penn State cut the Minnesota lead down to five points with a Journey Brown touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the defense had their best stop of the game, giving Penn State one last chance to steal the win. But Clifford was intercepted a third time, this time by Jordon Howden just inside the end zone.

The outcome of the game may not have a dramatic impact in how the Big Ten championship picture plays out, because Minnesota still would have had a lead in the division race and Penn State’s Big Ten East odds likely would still be determined by what happens in a few weeks at Ohio State had Penn State won this game, but there is no taking away from the importance of this game for both teams. For Minnesota, the Gophers are now one giant step closer to playing in their first Big Ten Championship Game. Minnesota will own a two-game lead on either Iowa or Wisconsin, depending on which team wins that head-to-head matchup this afternoon. Minnesota still has to play both Iowa and Wisconsin, but having a minimum of a two-game lead in the division race with just three games remaining is a wonderful spot for Fleck and his program to be sitting.

Penn State, fresh off their highest ranking in the CFB Playoff rankings, will take a fall out of the top four but will still get a chance to settle the division race with Ohio State in two weeks. A spot in the New Years Six lineup still remains a likely destination for the Nittany Lions, but there is some work to do in order to re-enter a playoff spot.

Penn State’s next game will be at home next week against Indiana. The Hoosiers, who will travel to Happy Valley with seven wins already this season (7-2), will be coming off a bye week.

Minnesota goes on the road next week to play at No. 18 Iowa. The Hawkeyes will be coming off a road game at Wisconsin, a critical game in the Big Ten West Division standings. Minnesota may be about to row their boats right on down to Indianapolis.

Golden upset in the making? No. 17 Minnesota leading No. 4 Penn State 24-13 at halftime

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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.

Ohio State gets replay to go their way but Minnesota hanging around in Columbus

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Minnesota was a heavy underdog this afternoon against Ohio State, but the Gophers are keeping the Buckeyes within reach after one half of play in Columbus. Ohio State leads Minnesota 17-14 at halftime, thanks in part to two touchdowns coming after pivotal instant replay situations to go their way.

One play after it appeared Minnesota may have stopped Ohio State on a fourth and short, there was no replay called by the Big Ten replay official to review the spot where Mike Weber landed on the field. Dwayne Haskins wasted no time capitalizing on the lack of replay and went deep for a touchdown for the Buckeyes.

Minnesota was not rattled, however. The Gophers responded with a nine-play 75-yard touchdown drive, ending with Mohamed Ibrahim punching one in from three yards out to regain the Minnesota lead. It was then Minnesota’s defense with a chance to make a big play, stonewalling Ohio State on 4th and 1 from the Minnesota 17-yard line out of an Ohio State timeout. The Buckeyes’ 11-play drive not cutting into the lead or taking the lead was a nice spark for the Gophers, but a fumble on the next offensive series for Minnesota led to an Ohio State touchdown.

This time, the instant replay booth did get involved to decide if a fumble by receiver Tyler Johnson would be upheld. After review, the ruling was made Johnson did secure the catch and lose control of the football after doing so. Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah recovered the football and Haskins later completed a 36-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hill as the Buckeyes took a 17-14 lead, which held for the remainder of the first half.

Minnesota’s own mistakes have hurt them in this first half, as well as they are playing overall. Two turnovers and three personal foul penalties have not helped the upset bid. However, with one half to play, Minnesota is in position to keep the pressure on Ohio State in the second half if the Buckeyes cannot make enough adjustments. Big plays have favored Ohio State, but will they continue to wear down Minnesota in the second half?

Minnesota Coney Dur was ejected from the game for targeting on Haskins.