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No. 16 Penn State Bullies Minnesota 45-17 In Bounce-Back White Out Win

No. 16 Penn State (6-1, Big Ten 3-1) made easy work of Minnesota (4-3, Big Ten 1-3), taking the Golden Gophers down 45-17.

Sean Clifford finished his day completing 23-of-31 passes for 295 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The Beaver Stadium crowd also forced five false start penalties on Minnesota, as the Golden Gophers couldn’t seem to handle the White Out conditions.

How It Happened

After receiving the opening kickoff, a failed third down conversion led to an embarrassing miscommunication. As the offense stayed on the field for a presumptive fourth down attempt, the punt team also took the field. Somehow the Nittany Lions were able to get the punt off without burning a timeout.

Minnesota began its first possession with a false start, forced by “Mo Bamba” and a raucous Beaver Stadium crowd. After the Golden Gophers went nowhere on first and second down, Beaver Stadium forced another false start to set up third and 17, which did not get converted.

Penn State followed up with another three-and-out, after the offense failed to bounce back from a stuffed Nick Singleton run on first down. Though Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim started generating a rhythm on 17 yards, the Nittany Lions’ defense held strong forcing a punt around from their 42-yard-line.

On the second play of Penn State’s drive, Sean Clifford launched a deep ball beyond the reach of Parker Washington and Minnesota intercepted it in stride. Returning the ball to Penn State’s 14-yard-line. Manny Diaz’s defense forced the Golden Gophers backward on the ensuing drive, only allowing a 35-yard field goal. Minnesota took a 3-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.

After a weak Kaytron Allen rushing attempt and a bad Clifford incompletion, the sixth-year senior found Theo Johnson for a big 25-yard reception. Two plays later, Clifford and Johnson reconnected – this time for 18 yards. Returning from the quarter break, a pair of sputtering runs from Singleton led to a 42-yard field goal from Jake Pinegar. Penn State tied the game at three apiece just one minute into the second quarter.

A quick Minnesota three-and-out was forced by successive impact plays from Charlie Katshir and Daequan Hardy. The Nittany Lion offense pieced together a string of quick plays in response, opening up the door for a 22-yard sideline run from Singleton. Two plays later, Clifford dropped a deep pass into the arms of Tyler Warren for a 38-yard touchdown. Pinegar’s successful extra point put the Nittany Lions back up 10-3 with nine minutes left in the half.

Minnesota picked up its fourth and fifth false start penalties on consecutive plays, turning a 3rd-and-10 into a 3rd-and-20. A long punt from Mark Crawford put Penn State’s offense back on its own 14-yard line. Allen opened up the Nittany Lions’ ensuing drive with three runs, including a 10-yard run punctuated by a truck and subsequent first-down pickup. A beautiful 30-yard pass from Clifford to Mitchell Tinsley came on a free play.

The offense immediately kipped up, scoring on an 18-yard pass to Theo Johnson – the tight end room’s second of the day. With Pinegar’s extra point, Penn State took a 17-3 lead with four minutes left in the half.

Heavy pressure from the defensive line forced another Minnesota three-and-out. On the subsequent second down, Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich dialed up another deep shot. This time, Minnesota’s coverage forced a timing-based incompletion and a third down that went unconverted. Barney Amor punted to Minnesota’s 20-yard line, but another Golden Gophers penalty pushed it back to the 10.

Minnesota’s Athan Kaliakmanis couldn’t connect on a deep, second-down pass, after Joey Porter Jr. made a diving breakup. Shortly after, Kaliakmanis finally got one past the Nittany Lions’ defense, finding Le’Meke Brockington for a difficult sideline catch 33 yards downfield. Three consecutive plays by the Golden Gophers eclipsed 10 yards and they began their second red zone possession of the game. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim barreled forward for gains of four, eight, and three yards, with the last bringing about Minnesota’s first touchdown. Penn State held a 17-10 lead with 32 seconds remaining in the half.

After a 19-yard pass by the Golden Gophers, Penn State’s defense rallied to force another punt. On the punt, linebacker Dominic DeLuca broke through the protection and got his hands on the ball. The affected punt was downed at the Nittany Lions’ 36-yard line.

A 15-yard Singleton run encouraged the Nittany Lions’ offense to get aggressive. Three plays later, Clifford stared down oncoming pressure and tossed Washington a 50-50 ball. Penn State’s wide receiver mossed his defender for six. The Nittany Lions extended their lead to 24-10 with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Penn State’s defense committed its first penalty of the night on Minnesota’s followup drive, but it wasn’t enough. Kaliakmanis threw a weak ball downfield, which was intercepted by Ji’Ayir Brown for his third of the season. Allen’s 14-yard run and a later pass interference call on Minnesota allowed the Nittany Lions to continue their march up the gridiron. On a handoff from the 16-yard line, Singleton bounced outside and took it to the house. Penn State led 31-10 with six-and-a-half minutes left in the third quarter.

A quick three-and-out brought Clifford and the offense back onto the field. Over 11 plays, the Nittany Lions tallied 32 yards on the ground and 38 yards through the air, en route to a 20-yard touchdown catch by Tinsley. Minnesota’s blown coverage and Pinegar’s extra point gave Penn State a 38-10 lead with less than 30 seconds in the third quarter.

Short offensive plays helped Minnesota’s offense slowly inch up the field, until Kaliakmanis found Brevyn Spann-Ford for 28 yards after the tight end hurdled a closing Nittany Lion defender. Ibrahim immediately bounced off of two consecutive Penn State tackles to bring the Golden Gophers to the 1-yard line. Diaz’s defense stopped a pair of plays short of the end zone, before finally allowing a Spann-Ford touchdown catch, cutting the lead to 38-17 with eight minutes remaining in the game.

Drew Allar eventually replaced Sean Clifford, and Nick Singleton scored his second touchdown of the game to bring Penn State’s lead to 45-17 in the middle of the fourth quarter. That seemed to be it for the game, as Penn State closed out its sixth win of the season to become bowl eligible.


  • After a bad interception in the first quarter, starting quarterback Sean Clifford bounced back in a huge way. Clifford ended his night completing 23-of-31 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns. The sixth-year senior entered the game with a questionable bill of health, having left last week’s Michigan contest with an undisclosed injury, but Clifford’s clinical performance was the key to Penn State’s White Out victory.
  • After a series of quiet weeks from Penn State’s tight ends, the room had something of a coming-out party. Sophomores Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren combined for 113 yards and a touchdown each. Scoring the team’s first two touchdowns, the tight ends served as catalysts for Penn State’s snowballing momentum. The diversification of the pass attack was critical to the Nittany Lions’ early lead and systematic control of Minnesota’s defense.
  • Despite Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim coming into the game averaging 6.7 yards per carry, Penn State’s defense was able to hold him to just 3.4 per carry. Ibrahim still finished the night with 102 yards and a touchdown, but the Nittany Lions’ run defense was a far cry from the abomination that was last week’s performance.
  • Mo Bamba might be the greatest Penn State athlete of all time and he has never stepped foot on campus. Beaver Stadium’s fans forced five first-half false start penalties from Minnesota’s offense. Facing backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, the crowd noise was crucial to disrupting the Golden Gophers’ flow. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s chaos-based defense also leveraged the ear-splitting ambience, forcing six quarterback hurries and a 15.4% third-down conversion rate.

What’s Next

Penn State stays home next week, hosting Big Ten rival Ohio State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. The game is set for a noon kickoff and will be broadcast on FOX, as part of the network’s Big Noon Kickoff programming.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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