Poof Goes the Playoffs: No. 4 Penn State Upset by Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – No. 4 Penn State threatened to score the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes, but No. 17 Minnesota was able to get a fourth-down stop to seal a 31-26 victory, Saturday afternoon in TCF Bank Stadium.

(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Minnesota (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) was led on offense by quarterback Tanner Morgan, who completed 18-of-20 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns and receivers Rashod Bateman (7 catches, 203 yds, 1 TD) and Tyler Johnson (7 catches, 104 yds, 1 TD), and on defense by cornerback Antonie Winfield Jr., who had 11 tackles and two interceptions.

For Penn State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten), running back Journey Brown (Meadville, Pa.) rushed for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns, tight end Pat Freiermuth (Merrimac, Mass.) had a career-high 101 receiving yards on seven receptions, while wide receiver KJ Hamler (Pontiac, Mich.) had his fourth 100-yard game of the year with 119 yards on seven catches.

Quarterback Sean Clifford (Cincinnati, Ohio) had his second career 300-yard game, totaling 340 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-43 passing.

The Nittany Lions trailed by 12 early in the fourth quarter but cut the deficit to five on a touchdown by Brown with 3:49 to go and got the ball back after a three-and-out. A 49-yard completion to Jahan Dotson (Nazareth, Pa.) gave Penn State first-and-10 at the Minnesota 11 with 1:56 to go, but on second-and-9, an offensive pass interference penalty moved the Lions back to the 25, and an incompletion and an interception in the end zone by Jordan Howard sealed the game for the Gophers.

How It Happened

The Gophers started strong, as Winfield Jr. intercepted a Clifford deep ball at the Minnesota 5 on the game’s first drive and they then covered the 95 yards on just five plays as Bateman was left open down the right sideline for a 66-yard touchdown reception.

Penn State answered with a 45-yard touchdown run by Brown, tying the game at 7-7 with 10:51 remaining in the first quarter, but the Gophers went back ahead with an 87-yard drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown reception by Chris Autman-Bell. Penn State cut the deficit to four with 2:12 remaining on a 33-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar (Ankeny, Iowa).

In the second quarter, another Winfield Jr. interception set up a 38-yard touchdown reception by Tyler Johnson for a 21-10 lead. Both teams added field goals before the break, and Minnesota led 24-13 heading into the locker room.

Penn State pulled within five in the third quarter, taking advantage of a Minnesota fumble at midfield forced by Keaton Ellis (State College, Pa.) and recovered by Shaka Toney (Philadelphia, Pa.) The Nittany Lions drove and Nick Bowers (Kittanning, Pa.) scored on a 10-yard touchdown reception, but their two-point conversion attempt failed.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Minnesota running back Seth Green punched the ball in from 1-yard out for a 31-19 lead. Penn State reached the Minnesota 5 on its next possession but was stopped on fourth down.

The Nittany Lions pulled back within five points on a 6-yard touchdown by Journey Brown with 3:49 remaining but were unable to get the go-ahead score late.

Up Next

Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium Saturday, hosting Indiana at noon on ABC.

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