Defense takes major step backward

Matt Perkins

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. – Penn State’s offense had one thing that Minnesota’s football team’s defense hadn’t seen yet this season – stop-and-go speed.

The Gophers gave up 364 yards on the ground, including five rushing touchdowns in their 44-14 loss to the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

Minnesota looked helpless on all fronts defensively, but was especially atrocious in wrapping up Penn State rushers, Minnesota coach Glen Mason said.

“Their whole inside run is my biggest concern at this point,” Mason said. “And typically when it happens like that we probably had major breakdowns fundamentally.”

Every Penn State rusher averaged more than 5 yards per carry, with Nittany Lions running back Tony Hunt leading the way with 21 carries for 116 yards and two scores.

Penn State’s backup running back Austin Scott didn’t have to spell Hunt often, but when he did he racked up 54 yards on just nine carries.

Even Penn State’s backup fullback had a 12-yard carry, but Mason said that if there was one player that changed the course of the game, it was the guy leading the Nittany Lions offense.

“To me the biggest difference was Michael Robinson,” Mason said. “He runs the show there.”

Robinson had 18 carries for 115 yards, averaging just more than 6 yards each time he decided to tuck the ball and run.

The Gophers film study revolved around the quarterback draw all week, but when it came to game time, the Gophers said Penn State simply had better execution.

And Penn State used Robinson’s threat against the Gophers, offering up the possibility of the option only to misdirect back to wideout Derrick Williams on the reverse.

Williams took one reverse in for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter to start off Penn State and put the Lions up 17-0.

But the Gophers said after the game they were prepared for what Penn State ran against them; there were no surprises, just missed tackles.

“They came out ready to go and out-hit us,” sophomore linebacker John Shevlin said. “They out-hit us and out-physicaled us.”

One of the features of Penn State’s rushing attack that stood out in a sea of statistical dominance was its hard-knock style.

Instead of cutting out of bounds at the last second, the Nittany Lions would cut back up field and initiate contact to get a few extra yards.

“That’s Big Ten football, that’s what I love to play against,” senior free safety John Pawielski said. “That’s a (Penn State coach) Joe (Paterno) team; you don’t run out of bounds, you just keep running and make them knock you.”