8:00 PM ET, October 2, 2004
The Metrodome, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's powerful running game was inconsistent.
No matter, because Penn State's ground attack was virtually nonexistent.
Laurence Maroney ran for 144 yards and a touchdown and (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) Minnesota overcame Penn State's scrappy defense to beat the Nittany Lions 16-7 on Saturday night.
The Gophers recorded a 5-0 start in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1940-41 and have won four in a row against Penn State. But Minnesota's offense, which entered the game averaging 44 points, stalled frequently against the Lions.
"That was the best defense we've played against in a long time," Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
Penn State's offense was a different story.
Quarterback Zack Mills went 24-for-46 for 250-yards despite a gimpy right shoulder, but the Gophers shut down the Lions' running game, holding Penn State to 21 yards on the ground. A few untimely penalties didn't help either.
"We had to rely on the pass," Lions coach Joe Paterno said. "They played good all-around defense."
While Maroney set a school record with his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, the Lions helped limit Minnesota's powerful backfield by holding Marion Barber III to 88 yards on 21 carries and one score. Bryan Cupito went 8-for-18 for 113 yards and an interception for the Gophers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten).
"I didn't really play that well," Cupito said. "I helped them out a lot."
But Penn State's offense couldn't take advantage. The Lions have scored only 10 points in their last two games.
"That's terrible," Mills said, adding that his shoulder felt tender throughout the game. "I don't think I could've taken too many hits."
Penn State (2-3, 0-2) got help from its special teams; the Lions blocked two field goals and an extra point -- Scott Paxson had two of the blocks.
The second blocked field goal, a 43-yard attempt by Rhys Lloyd midway through the fourth quarter, gave Penn State the ball at their own 35 trailing 16-7.
Mills guided the Lions to Minnesota's 16, but threw an interception to John Pawielski in the end zone with 3:33 to play.
"It's frustrating," Paterno said. "How many times can I say it?"
Mills has thrown eight interceptions this season.
Barber had a quiet 19 yards rushing in the first half, but had an impressive 19-yard TD run early in the third quarter to make it 16-0. On first down, Barber cut left, spun away from one tackle and broke two more before Dan Conner dragged him down in the end zone at the 9:16 mark.
Penn State finally scored with 1:05 left in the third quarter on Mills' 6-yard TD pass to Isaac Smolko. The Lions converted two third downs on the drive, which started at the Penn State 48. Mills hit Tony Hunt for a tough 19-yard pass to Minnesota's 6, which set up Smolko's touchdown to pull Penn State to 16-7.
Minnesota's rushing attack, averaging a Big Ten-best 332 yards per game entering the game, finished with 288 yards and a season-low 143 in the first two quarters -- 64 on them came on one run by Maroney in the first quarter.
On third-and-11 from the Minnesota 13, Maroney burst up the middle and quickly cut to the left, eluding several defenders. He would've had a touchdown on the play if not for Calvin Lowry's diving tackle at the Penn State 23.
Five plays later, Maroney scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down.
Other than that, the Lions defense held Minnesota's rushing tandem of Maroney and Barber in check. Still, Mason was more upset by his special teams.
"I felt the offense was very inconsistent tonight, but maybe my feelings are tainted a little bit because of our kicking game," Mason said. "We still gained over 400 yards and rushed for almost 300."
Mills threw for 111 first-half yards, but couldn't guide Penn State past Minnesota's 43 until the Lions' final drive of the half. Robbie Gould missed a 51-yard field goal with 1:03 to play as the Gophers preserved a 10-0 halftime lead.
Maroney had 94 yards rushing the first half, marking the first time this season a Gophers running back failed to reach 100 yards before halftime.
Minnesota opened the scoring on Lloyd's 21-yard field goal at the 10:58 mark of the first.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||9-18||6-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||2-2|
|FG||10:58||RHYS LLOYD 21 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 41 yards.
|TD||0:39||LAURENCE MARONEY 1 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 86 yards.
|TD||9:16||MARION BARBER III 19 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||1:05||ISAAC SMOLKO 6 YD PASS FROM ZACK MILLS (ROBBIE GOULD KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 52 yards.