Stout Penn State defense stifles vaunted Minnesota attack

David McCoy

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. – Minnesota’s football team came into Saturday’s game at Penn State ranked first in the country in rushing at 326.5 yards per game.

But in the 44-14 loss to the Nittany Lions (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), the Gophers couldn’t even manage 300 yards of total offense, halting a school record streak of 31 games dating back to a 45-21 loss to then-No. 6 Iowa on Nov. 16, 2002.

Minnesota gained just 287 yards of total offense Saturday, with 113 on the ground and 174 through the air.

“You take a good defense playing good and you take a good offense playing poor, that’s what you get,” Mason said. “I think we played very poor today.”

Put them up fast

When Penn State’s Derrick Williams broke the plane of the goal line with 8:53 remaining in the first quarter on the Lions’ first drive of the game, the team became the first to score on Minnesota in the first quarter this season.

The scoring didn’t stop there, as the Lions scored on every drive except for two punts and a missed 51-yard field goal by freshman Kevin Kelly.

Penn State also held the ball more than 10 minutes longer than Minnesota with a possession advantage of 35:18 to 24:42.

Containing Robinson

Minnesota safety John Pawielski said his team didn’t have a specific game plan to contain elusive Lions quarterback Michael Robinson, and became more of a key factor in the game than the team expected.

“We didn’t think he was going to run as much as he did,” Pawielski said. “He became a lot more of a factor because they were beating us up front.”

Robinson rushed for a career-high 112 yards, which helped Penn State out-gain Minnesota 364 yards rushing to 113. Robinson also passed for 175 yards.

Injury report

Gophers safety Brandon Owens left Saturday’s game after a collision with Robinson early in the second quarter.

Robinson gained 5 yards on the play before Owens stepped in his way to make the stop. Robinson popped Owens and knocked him down, and the junior strong safety had to be helped off the field. He did not return.

Mason said he couldn’t give an update on Owens’ status, but said he was able to make the flight home with the team.

Despite saying Tuesday that he expected left tackle Joe Ainslie to play Saturday, Mason held Ainslie out of the game in place of Steve Shidell, who started his fourth consecutive game of the season.

Minnesota still in it

Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito said that although Saturday’s loss was tough to swallow, it doesn’t put Minnesota out of the Big Ten race just yet.

“It’s disappointing coming off that big win (against Purdue),” Cupito said. “Now everyone’s going to think we’re not good again. But that’s all right, because you know what, I don’t think anyone in the Big Ten is going to go undefeated in the conference (games). We can control our own destiny really, playing everyone we’ve got to play.”

Minnesota plays at Michigan this Saturday, followed by Wisconsin and Ohio State at home. Both won Saturday, as the Wolverines beat Michigan State 34-32 in overtime and Wisconsin beat Indiana 41-24. Ohio State did not play.