|Score by Quarters
||MIN - Rhys Lloyd 21-yard field goal
||MIN - Laurence Maroney 1-yard run (Lloyd
||MIN - Marion Barber III 19-yard run (PAT blocked)
||PSU - Isaac Smolko 6-yard pass from Z. Mills (Gould
MINNEAPOLIS - At the end of the third quarter, Penn State defensive
back Andrew Guman raced to the sideline and met his backup, Paul Cronin,
with a flying chest bump.
In a hard-fought game against 18th-ranked Minnesota last night at the
Metrodome, the surge of emotion on a struggling team was evident.
The defense was willing, but the Nittany Lions' offense was unable.
Even though they held the Gophers well below their average of 44.2 points
per game, the Nittany Lions couldn't overcome the absence of their main offensive
threat, Michael Robinson, and went down to a 16-7 defeat in a Big Ten Conference
"It's frustrating," said Zack Mills, the lefthanded quarterback
who returned a week after suffering a separation in his right shoulder. "Our
guys hold a team like that to 16 points and we can't help them out."
Penn State's loss was its eighth straight on the road and its ninth in
its last 10 conference games.
Next week, things may become even more difficult when explosive Purdue,
ranked 15th, visits Happy Valley.
After a series of fits and starts, Penn State's offense finally awakened
with a scoring drive at the end of the third quarter as Mills found his rhythm
on a night when the blocking was porous and the Gophers (5-0 overall, 2-0 conference)
stuffed the Nittany Lions' running game, holding them to 21 yards on 22 carries.
Mills tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Isaac Smolko with 1
minute, 5 seconds to go in the third quarter to bring Penn State (2-3, 0-2) within
16-7. He completed 24 of 46 passes for 250 yards and had a potential TD throw
glance off the fingertips of Mark Rubin in the end zone late in the third quarter.
Surprisingly, coach Joe Paterno decided to kick rather than go for the
two-point conversion. So the Nittany Lions, down by 16-7, still needed two scores.
Asked whether he considered going for two points, Paterno said, "I
would have gone for two if it had been later in the game. But I thought we were
doing pretty well at that point."
Penn State made a final thrust midway through the fourth quarter, driving
to the Minnesota 16, but all hope ended when free safety John Pawielski intercepted
a Mills pass intended for tight end John Bronson in the end zone with 3:33 remaining.
Penn State got the chance to tighten the screws on the Gophers after defensive
tackle Scott Paxson blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Rhys Lloyd midway
through the fourth quarter. It was the second blocked field goal of the game
for the former Roman Catholic High star.
"I was lucky enough to block a couple," Paxson said. "If
the guy next to me gets a great push, that opens it up for me."
Minnesota went into the game averaging 332 yards per game on the ground
and 542.8 overall. The Gophers threatened to break open the game early in the
third quarter after Marion Barber III fought off four Penn State tacklers and
scored on a 19-yard run for a 16-0 lead.
Barber's run capped one of those long, potentially demoralizing drives
that now have bitten Penn State in each of its three losses. This one went 78
yards and gnawed 5:44 off the clock.
"We tackled well the whole game except for that dive," Paterno
On Penn State's first play in the second half, Tony Hunt fumbled and the
Gophers' Anthony Montgomery recovered, setting Minnesota up at the Nittany Lions'
33-yard line. But Paxson blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt, allowing Penn
State to escape further damage.
Paxson and his teammates on the defensive front had to deal with the imposing
two-back attack of Laurence Maroney and Barber running behind a seasoned offensive
line led by all-American center Greg Eslinger and Mark Setterstrom, regarded
among the top guards in the conference.
Maroney finished with 144 yards on 25 carries, including a 64-yard run
that set up his 1-yard scoring run late in the first quarter, when Minnesota
took a 10-0 lead.
Once again, though, Penn State's defenders received no help from their
teammates on the other side of the ball.
Paterno has frequently used the old saying, "Fool me once, shame
on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
For the second straight season, Minnesota fooled Penn State by opening
the game with an onside kick. And for the second straight season, the Gophers
recovered as Jared Ellerson leaped high above Penn State's Donnie Johnson to
catch Lloyd's kick at the Nittany Lions' 45-yard line.
"We were ready for it," Paterno said. "But we had a kid
[Johnson] who didn't even make an effort to get the ball.
Penn State's defense stiffened after Minnesota got a first down on the
8-yard line, and the Gophers settled for a 21-yard field goal by Lloyd for an
early 3-0 lead
Notes: Mark Rubin was the first true freshman to start
at receiver for Penn State in at least 15 years......Robinson, the Lions' leading
receiver and top all-around athlete, was out with a concussion and on the sideline
wearing a headset......Andre Sloan El, former quarterback at Roman Catholic High
School, and Hussain Shakir, a defensive back from Camden's Woodrow Wilson High,
are freshmen on Minnesota's roster. Both are from Pennsauken, Camden County......Nittany
Lions running back Matt Hahn became the sixth true freshman to see action this
season......Penn State's game Saturday against Purdue at Beaver Stadium has an
unusual 4:30 p.m. kickoff.