It’s not often that an opposing team gets completely shut out by the Nittany Lions. According to this morning’s Centre Daily Times, this was the 40th shutout in 44 years. Perhaps more significantly, this was a shut out against a Big Ten team with a winning record. Highly unusual! In fact, Minnesota was able to muster only 7 first downs in the entire game. The defense held them to only 138 net yards. Impressive. In fact, it was VERY impressive.
Perhaps the entire defense should get the game ball for yesterday’s win. They kept Minnesota off the field. Eric Decker, Minnesota’s highly regarded wide receiver, caught only one pass all game – a 42-yarder at the beginning of the 4th quarter that allowed Minnesota to get some offensive rhythm and into scoring position. But the defense stopped Minnesota on a 4th down play on the one-yard line and the shut out was secured.
Or perhaps the game ball should go to the instant replay system. It certainly helped us at the end of the first half! Without instant replay, the game might have turned out quite differently.
Or maybe the game ball should go to the offensive line, which has shown tremendous improvement and controlled the line of scrimmage, creating opportunities for rushing and passing.
We were worried about the offense at first. We could move the ball but we sputtered when we got into the red zone. Penalties seemed to be the primary problem. Penn State’s offense was self-destructing. Perhaps they were trying too hard to score. So we were 6-0 on two field goals by Collin Wagner. A third field goal try – a 49-yarder – was missed in the first half. Worrisome.
But then a Clark pass to Graham Zug, initially ruled incomplete, was overturned through instant replay and PSU’s final drive of the half stayed alive. With 35 seconds left in the half, Clark passed to Derek Moye in the end zone. Again it was ruled incomplete, but instant replay overruled that as well and gave us a touchdown.
So we wound up in the first half with a score of 13-0. The game was looking good so far, but it was far from over. Second half adjustments by Minnesota could easily overcome that deficit. And Minnesota is a dangerous come-from-behind team.
Credit the offense with controlling time of possession, especially in the third quarter. Our offense was on the field for 42 minutes, Minnesota’s offense was on the field for only 18 minutes. We were able to eat up a lot of clock with our rushing game, led by Evan Royster who had 23 attempts for 137 yards. Overall, the offense showed a balanced attack with 177 rushing yards and 287 passing yards. Clark had a fine performance, completing 21 of 32 passes and scoring a touchdown from the 1-yard line. No interceptions. He mixed up his passes – involving both wide receivers and tight ends. The Penn State offense had no turnovers throughout the entire game.
Basically the game yesterday was a total team effort. It was a very satisfying win. It gives Penn State needed confidence for two weeks of road trips, the biggest test of which will be Michigan in Ann Arbor. We have not won a game there since 1996. Will this be the year? Having witnessed yesterday’s performance, I’m quite optimistic about our chances.
How about you?