Go­phers pull off sig­na­ture stun­ner

Minnesota earns its 1st win over a top-5 team since 1999

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Dave Campbell

MINNEAPOLI­S — The progress made by Minnesota in coach P.J. Fleck’s third sea­son had been met by nat­u­ral skep­ti­cism out­side the long-lan­guish­ing pro­gram, with even the most ar­dent fans in full prove-it mode for this game of un­beaten teams against Penn State.

From start to fin­ish, the Go­phers matched the mo­ment. They The Go­phers took down the Nit­tany Lions with a nar­ra­tive-al­ter­ing per­for­mance.

Jor­dan How­den picked off Sean Clif­ford’s pass in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third in­ter­cep­tion thrown by Penn State’s quar­ter­back, and 13th-ranked Minnesota held on for a 31-26 vic­tory on Satur­day af­ter­noon for its first win over a top-five team since top­ping Penn State in 1999.

“I’m just so proud to be a Go­pher, and I speak for our whole team when I say that,” said Fleck, who de­clared the game ball he handed af­ter­ward to the school pres­i­dent for the en­tire state.

Tan­ner Mor­gan passed for 339 yards and three touch­downs in a dis­man­tling of fifth-ranked Penn State’s staunch de­fense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten cham­pi­onship game.

The first sell­out crowd for the Go­phers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, rev­el­ing in the first win at home over a top-five team since a shutout of No. 1 Michi­gan in 1977. The Go­phers scram­bled the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off pic­ture a bit, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edi­tion of the rank­ings.

“We knew they were a good foot­ball team,” Nit­tany Lions coach James Franklin said. “It’s hard to be un­de­feated.”

Rashod Bate­man got the Go­phers go­ing with a 66-yard score on their first pos­ses­sion that cov­ered 95 yards. He fin­ished with seven catches for 203 yards, the sec­ond-most in pro­gram his­tory. Tyler John­son had seven re­cep­tions for 104 yards and a touch­down. And Mor­gan went 18 for 20, his sec­ond game of the sea­son with a 90% or bet­ter com­ple­tion rate.

Jour­ney Brown’s sec­ond rush­ing touch­down of the game with 3:49 to go cut the lead to five points, and the Go­phers promptly went three and out. K.J. Ham­ler muffed the punt when a team­mate backed into him, and though the Nit­tany Lions re­cov­ered, they were pushed back to their 28-yard line.

Clif­ford, who went 23 for 43 for 340 yards and one score, con­nected with Ja­han Dot­son for 49 yards to get Penn State to the 11. Two plays later, how­ever, came the drive killer. Daniel Ge­orge was called for of­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence dur­ing an over-the-mid­dle catch by Brown that reached the 2. Clif­ford over­threw Ge­orge on the next play be­fore the game-seal­ing pick by How­den.

STACY BENGS/AP

Minnesota play­ers raise the Gov­er­nor’s Vic­tory Bell after Satur­day’s up­set of Penn State.

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