MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's powerful running game was
No matter, because Penn State's ground attack was virtually
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
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
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
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
Minnesota opened the scoring on Lloyd's 21-yard field goal at
the 10:58 mark of the first.