Why not us: Gophers get biggest win in decades with 31-26 victory over Penn State

All they do is win. 

The No. 13 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated No. 5 Penn State 31-26 on Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium. Behind Tanner Morgan’s arm and three interceptions by the defense, the win marks one of the best wins in decades for the program. The Gophers are now 9-0 and control their destiny in the Big Ten West. 

VIDEO: P.J. Fleck talks about how special his team is. 

The game couldn’t have started better for Gophers as the team won the coin toss and decided to begin the game on defense. Like he has been numerous times this season, Antoine Winfield Jr. was in the right place at the right time, intercepting a pass on the first defensive drive of the game. It was Winfield’s sixth interception of the game, lighting an already well-kindled fire under a TCF Bank Stadium crowd of 51,883. Five plays later, Tanner Morgan found Rashod Bateman for a 66-yard touchdown and just like that, the Gophers led 7-0. 

The lead didn’t last long for Minnesota as the Penn State began the team’s second drive with 12:06 left in the first quarter and went 69 yards on four plays. A Journey Brown 45-yard touchdown tied the score, giving the ball back to Morgan and go just 1:15 later. The first play of the Gophers’ second drive was a 28-yard completion to Bateman. Shannon Brooks added two yards on the next play and then six straight runs went for a grand total of 18 yards. With 4:29 left in the first quarter, Morgan found Chris Autman-Bell on a tunnel screen and Bell took care of the rest, going 21-yards for the touchdown. 

VIDEO: Fleck talking about his leaders having to be “the reason.” 

After a Penn State field goal before the end of the first quarter, the Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers both went scoreless on their next drives. The Gophers went eight plays for 27 yards while Penn State went 10 plays and 69 yards before Winfield Jr.’s second interception of the day ended the drive. With 8:48 left in the first half, the Gophers started yet another drive with a pass to Bateman, this one for 22-yards. Rodney Smith ran for one yard on the next play and on play No. 3, Morgan and Tyler Johnson hooked up for a 38-yard touchdown connection down the left sideline. The score put the Gophers up 21-10 with 7:18 remaining in the half. 

The Gophers’ defense continued to hold strong, forcing a three-and-out for Sean Clifford and Co. and giving the ball back to the offense who were proving they could score points on even one of the nation’s top defenses. Over the next 2:42, the Gophers once again drove down the field, scoring a field goal and extending the lead to 24-10. Penn State added a second field goal as the first half ended, leaving the Gophers with an 11-point cushion into the break. 

VIDEO: Coach Fleck when asked if he thought his team would be 9-0 at the beginning of the season. 

On the first offensive drive of the second half, the Gophers ran 6:02 off the clock but were unable to extend the lead at all, ultimately punting back to Penn State. The Nittany Lions went three and out once again, this time because of a big-time sack by Esezi Otomewo up front. Unfortunately for the home team, Shannon Brooks fumbled immediately, giving the ball back to PSU where the team put together a nine-play, 50-yard touchdown drive to cut the lead within five with 4:05 left in the third quarter. 

Like the Gophers have all year, the team continued to fight. The Gophers ended the third quarter driving down the field and started the fourth quarter finishing that fight. Morgan started the drive completing a pass to Autman-Bell before hitting Bateman twice and Autman-Bell again. On third down, Morgan found Bateman for the third time on the drive, hitting him for 36-yards and a first down deep in Penn State territory. As the quarter ended, Seth Green took the field for maroon and gold, punching it in from one yard out after a three-yard gain on the previous play. The touchdown run capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive and ended the Gophers scoring for the afternoon. Penn State scored with 3:49 left to play but was unable to bring it any closer than five points, even with a late opportunity. Like every game this year, someone steps up when it counts and this time it was Jordan Howden, intercepting Clifford’s pass in the endzone to secure the victory. The horn sounded the ended the game. The players ran to claim the bell. The crowd stormed the field. It was beautiful! 

The 9-0 Gophers now travel to Iowa next weekend where the Hawkeyes will be next in line in trying to end the undefeated season. The Gophers are 9-0 for the first time since 1904 and look to continue building a resume as bowl season continues to get closer. Representatives for both the Orange Bowl and Citrus Bowl were at today’s game. Gametime for the Nov. 16 game vs. Iowa is 3 p.m. 

The Gophers will enjoy tonight’s win and enjoy being 1-0 in the Penn State season. Tomorrow, Fleck and Co. prepare for Iowa week where the team looks for win No. 10 on the season and win No. 12 in a row. 

Who hates Iowa?

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