I’m not going to say I jinxed Penn State’s unbeaten start to the season with my article from last week detailing its position in the College Football Playoff race. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t think about that a bit as the final seconds ticked away in Saturday’s 31-26 win for Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers fed off of an electric home crowd to capture the program’s biggest win in 80 years.
The Nittany Lions had managed to navigate a challenging run of games, beating Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks, but couldn’t sink the boat of PJ Fleck’s now 9-0 Gophers.
Having trailed by 11 at halftime, Penn State had chances to win the game in the second half, but turnovers in the red zone and a few head-scratching officiating decisions on the Nittany Lions’ final drive doomed their defeat.
Star of The Game: Rashod Bateman
It was a day to forget for the Penn State secondary, with missed tackles and blown assignments plaguing the back end of the Nittany Lions’ defense most of the game. Rashod Bateman, arguably Minnesota’s best player, tormented Penn State to the tune of 7 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown. He was inexplicably left open on several occasions, including on the Gophers’ opening possession, which saw him evade an attempted tackle from Garrett Taylor, race down the sideline and ease into the end zone for six. It was the first of many big plays Bateman would make.
Moment of Magic: Red zone turnovers propel Gophers
I don’t think there was one defining play that set the Gophers apart from Penn State on Saturday. Rather, untimely turnovers while the Nittany Lions were marching propelled Minnesota to a win. Penn State’s offense actually moved the ball as consistently as it has all season, but turnovers on the plus side of the field proved costly. Sean Clifford threw three interceptions inside the 20 — to be fair to him, though, two of those could have (should have) been overturned because of pass interference by Minnesota. The Nittany Lions also turned the ball over on downs inside the 10 after an impressive drive stalled midway through the fourth quarter.
Penn State dominates series with Indiana
Penn State is 21-1 all-time against the Hoosiers, it’s best record against any Big Ten opponent. James Franklin is 5-0 against Indiana in his time in charge of the Nittany Lions.
Avoiding a hangover
In each of the past two seasons, Penn State has suffered some gut-wrenching losses to other ranked opponents and compounded those losses with defeats in the next game to teams the Nittany Lions were expected to beat. In 2017 and 2018, Penn State lost nail-biters to Ohio State and followed those up by losing to underdog Michigan State teams. They’ll be eager to put that narrative behind them when they take on Indiana at Beaver Stadium. The Hoosiers are playing well at 7-2 and might even be ranked in the latest College Football Playoff poll. Still, you’d expect the Nittany Lions to handle business in this one.
Ramsey’s time to shine
For most of this season, Hoosiers coach Tom Allen has deployed a two-quarterback system with both Michael Penix Jr. and Peyton Ramsey both seeing substantial playing time. However, Penix Jr. suffered a season-ending injury a few weeks ago, meaning Ramsey is now the No. 1 guy in Bloomington. In his first start of the season against Nebraska, Ramsey passed for a career-high 351 yards in an Indiana win.