Third-Down Conversions Help Lead Penn State to 20-0 Win over Minnesota
October 17, 2009

The Minnesota Gophers’ defense did a creditable job of stopping Penn State on first and second downs. But the Nittany Lions, who wore down the defense by being on the field more than 40 minutes converted 11 of 17 third-down plays. Combined with a strong defensive performance, the Nittany Lions cruised to a 20-0 win over the Gophers.

The game was played in frigid conditions, with a temperature in the 30s and with leftover snow in the stands from a six-inch storm that started the day before and carried into Saturday morning. The weather resulted in a large number of no-shows with large parts of a couple sections of stands barren of humanity although the paid attendance was 107,981, a sellout. In between the first and second quarter, a group of dancers in the west end zone were pelted by snowballs from the stands from a group of fans who, according to one wisecracking sportswriter, were demonstrating more accuracy than Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber. Although Weber completed four of eight in the first quarter, he also had one picked off by Penn State linebacker Josh Hull on the opening series of the game.

Collin Wagner hit field goals of 47 and 27 yards (the former a career long for Wagner) in the first quarter and on the first play of the second quarter, respectively.

Midway through the second quarter, the Nittany Lions started a drive at their 9 yard line. They moved to midfield as Daryll Clark hit receivers Graham Zug and Derek Moye. On a third-and-six play, tight-end Andrew Quarless took a pass and lumbered down the sideline to the Minnesota 21. On a third-and-two play, Clark threw a low pass over the middle to Zug that was ruled incompleted. However, the play was reviewed and the call overturned, giving Penn State the ball at the 7. After a five-yard gain by Clark, Evan Royster took a handoff and cut into the end zone, but a flag flew on the play, a holding call that moved Penn State back to the 12. With 35 seconds left in the quarter, Moye caught a pass while falling out of the right side of the end zone and was signaled incomplete. Another review took place. Replays showed that Moye had dragged his left foot in bounds but may not yet have had full possession. However, the review once again went in Penn State’s favor, the call being overturned to a touchdown, sending the Nittany Lions into halftime with a 13-0 lead.

“It was tough,” Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said after the game of the late first-half touchdown. “Our defense was scratching and fighting, It looked like the guy was out of bounds and there were two officials on the play, they call him out of bounds and they look at it upstairs and they say it’s a touchdown.”

Asked about how he liked instant replay, Joe Paterno said, “I’ve always been for instant replay.” In his 44th year as head coach of the Nittany Lions and 60th year as a member of the team’s coaching staff, Paterno added, “You try to make sure that the better team wins and if there’s a call in there sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. I think the instant replay is a good thing. It’s a good thing for everybody.”

Minnesota had only 38 yards in the first half and two first downs compared to Penn State’s 259 yards from scrimmage and 11 first downs, five of which came on third down.

The Nittany Lions converted three third-down plays on its second drive in the second half, the final coming on a leap by Clark that broke the plane of the goal line on a third-and-goal from inches away. On the 85-yard drive, Clark scrambled and hit Chaz Powell for a 15-yard gain on a third-and-12 play from the Penn State 13. After a completion to Quarless flanked by runs of 9 and 23 yards by Royster put the Lions in Minnesota territory. Facing a third-and-four at the 30, Zug took a pass in the corner of the gridiron and was knocked out of bounds by Kyle Theret inside the 1. Clark’s touchdown and Wagner’s conversion made the score 20-0 with 1:41 left in the third quarter.

The Gophers then mounted their only sustained drive of the day. After Troy Stoudermire returned Wagner’s kickoff 13 yards to the Minnesota 24, Weber went downfield to Eric Decker, who had yet to catch a pass in the game. Decker split two defenders and made an over-the-shoulder catch, falling at the Penn State 34, a gain of 42 yards. The Gophers moved to the 8 and had a first-and-goal. After an incomplete pass for Brandon Green in the end zone, a swing pass to Duane Bennett got the Gophers to the 4. Weber scrambled and was brought down short of the goal line as the ball popped out of his hand and was recovered in the end zone by the Nittany Lions. This time Minnesota benefited from a review, as the call was overturned with the ruling that Weber was down before the fumble. On a fourth-and-goal from the 1, Kevin Whaley went to his left but was brought down by linebackers A. J. Wallace and Navorro Bowman for no gain.

Minnesota had only one more possession, which was snuffed after a sack of Weber, as Penn State ran time off the clock on its drives, resulting in the final score of 20-0.

Penn State dominated Minnesota in total yardage, 464 to 138 with 287 of the yards in the air on 21-for-32 passing by Clark. Moye caught six of the passes for 120 yards, and Zug had five receptions for 52 yards. Royster had 140 yards on 23 carries. Weber, with 21 yards, was the leading rusher for the Gophers.

Penn State, which came into the game ranked 13th and 14th in different polls, raised its record to 5-1, 2-1 in the Big Ten. Minnesota dropped to 4-3, 2-2 in the Big Ten.

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