Penn State beats Minnesota 33-21 in Horton’s Debut
October 23, 2010

Two teams looking for their first conference win of the season, Penn State and Minnesota, met at TCF Bank Stadium with coaches at opposite ends in terms of experience. Penn State’s Joe Paterno is in his 61st year at the school, his 45th year as head coach; Jeff Horton is in his first year and coaching his first game for Minnesota following the firing of Tim Brewster midway through his fourth season. The expectations were higher for the Nittany Lions, who came away with a 33-21 win over the Gophers.

Jeff Horton“I was stoked, trying to give some energy to the team,” said Horton, who continues to serve as the co-offensive coordinator. “I’m bitterly disappointed about the loss. We’re not here to feel good about our effort,” added Horton, who later lapsed into Brewster-speak by noting that the players “battled their tails off.”

Horton also spoke of crucial calls by the officials. The most crucial was a non-call in the second quarter. Down 14-7, the Gophers were driving and had the ball at Penn State’s 33 following a 22-yard pass over the middle from Adam Weber to MarQueis Gray. Weber then went to the end zone for Da’Jon McKnight, throwing into double coverage. McKnight ended up on the ground, leaving cornerback D’Anton Lynn free to pick off the pass and return it to the Minnesota 42.

Asked what he saw on the play, Horton said, “I saw a guy on the ground. You don’t usually see a guy fall down.” Horton said he had to accept the call but offered an opinion with his statement, “I just want it to be the same,” that the Gophers weren’t getting the same calls in return.

By this time, Penn State was going with its backup quarterbacks following an injury to freshman Rob Bolden, who left the game with a possible concussion. On the first play after Lynn’s interception, sophomore Matt McGloin was on target with a pass to Derek Moye, who had beaten Michael Carter and Kyle Theret, in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Nittany Lions ahead 21-7.

“We’re a young football team who got younger because of some key injuries,” said Paterno after the game. Paterno alternated McGloin and another sophomore, Kevin Newsome, the rest of the game as Penn State held on to the lead, at one time extending it to 33-14 before the Gophers came back with a touchdown in the closing minutes on the third touchdown pass of the game from Weber to McKnight.

“Da’Jon is making his own highlight reel,” said Horton. The junior receiver was able to outjump defenders in the end zone for the touchdown catches. One of them, a leaping grab beyond Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris, climaxed Minnesota’s opening drive of the second half. “That was huge,” said Horton, who noted that the team showed no panic at halftime despite being down by 14 points.

The Nittany Lions answered the Minnesota score with a 49-yard field goal from Collin Wagner for a 24-14 lead. A Penn State fourth-quarter drive, which increased the lead to 31-14, featured runs of 26 and 20 yards by Silas Redd, the backup to senior running back Evan Royster.

The Nittany Lions added their final points when Weber, being tackled by Devon Still in the end zone, flipped the ball away and was called for grounding, giving the Lions two points on the safety.

The Gophers outgained the Nittany Lions 433 to 351 in yards from scrimmage. Weber completed 26 of 49 passes for 299 yards and went over 10,000 yards in career passing; McKnight caught 8 of those passes for 103 yards, and DeLeon Eskridge carried 26 times for 119 yards.

Minnesota dropped to 1-7 and missed what may have been its best chance for a win for the rest of the season. Penn State upped its overall record to 4-3.

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