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Minnesota Shines In Eighth Win

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After a rough start to the Big Ten season, Minnesota has won four in a row. Quarterback Philip Nelson had a strong first half Saturday. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.
After a rough start to the Big Ten season, Minnesota has won four in a row. Quarterback Philip Nelson had a strong first half Saturday. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.

Minnesota proved me wrong in their 24-10 win over Penn State, and Outback Bowl officials, who came to the game to evaluate the Gophers, have to be impressed.

After lamenting the Gophers’ seemingly lethargic offense and one-man defense recently, they dominated Penn State in every way during the first half and bled out the clock in the second.

Minnesota quarterbacks passed for only 150 yards twice this season, but Philip Nelson put up 161 yards through the air in the first half, threw a touchdown pass and ran for another when he was hurried out of the pocket by Penn State’s DaQuan Jones. He threw four passes for more than 20 yards.

Gophers running back David Cobb ran for 139 yards and a touchdown, effectively giving Minnesota a balanced attack on offense that Penn State could not stop, allowing three drives longer than 70 yards in the first half.

Each team ran the ball away from two of the best defensive tackles in the country, Penn State’s Jones and Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman.

However, where the Gophers excelled, the Nittany Lions failed.

Penn State’s offense was run heavy through halftime, attempting just six passes to 15 runs, most of them to Zach Zwinak, who had 150 rushing yards. While they were able to run the ball effectively, the Penn State’s lack of downfield passes haunted them.

In particular, Allen Robinson was only targeted twice in the first half for two catches and 20 yards. Largely ditching your best offensive weapon? Bill O’Brien should know better than that.

Penn State's defense did shut down Minnesota’s offense in the second half, never allowing the Gophers to get near the red zone, but it was too late.

Poor offensive game planning and an uninspired first half defense put Penn State in too deep of a hole.

On the flip side, Minnesota showed that they can be more than an unexciting, run-heavy team as they get closer and closer to their bowl game.