Four weeks, four Big Ten wins. It’s been a while since the Gophers could say that -- 40 years, in fact.
Minnesota continued its resurgent ride Saturday, defeating Penn State 24-10 at TCF Bank Stadium to claim the Governor’s Victory Bell traveling trophy for the first time since 2004.
Philip Nelson rushed for one touchdown and passed for another, and David Cobb rushed 27 times for 139 yards, as the Gophers rode a big performance from the defense to the win.
The Gophers built the 24-10 lead by halftime and held tough through a scoreless second half. The win was pretty much sealed when Penn State's true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg fumbled at Minnesota's 1-yard line with 6:40 remaining.
The Gophers (8-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) controlled play against Penn State (5-4, 2-3), much as they did against Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana. It’s the first time Minnesota has had a four-game Big Ten winning streak in the same season since 1973.
And it’s the first time the Gophers have won eight games in a season since they went 10-3 under Glen Mason in 2003. The Gophers have a bye next week before facing Wisconsin at home on Nov. 23.
Gophers punter Peter Mortell pinned Penn State at the 1-yard line and the 2-yard line on back-to-back punts in the second half. The second one was a booming, 62-yarder.
While the second half was a defensive struggle, the Gophers had some big offensive moments in the first half.
First, they caught a break. Penn State fumbled on its first snap on a bad exchange from Hackenberg to running back Bill Belton. Cornerback Eric Murray pounded on the ball at Penn State’s 29-yard line, and the Gophers quickly turned that into a 45-yard field goal by Chris Hawthorne.
The Gophers made it 10-0 late in the first quarter with a 15-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that took 8:10 off the clock. The key play was a 24-yard pass from Philip Nelson to Maxx Williams on fourth-and-2 from Penn State’s 28-yard line.
Penn State seemed to be on its heels, but the Nittany Lions came right back with a quick, 75-yard touchdown drive. Zach Zwinak took over for Belton at running back and the Gophers didn’t have an answer. He had a 38-yard gain and scored on a six-yard run.
The Gophers came right back with another touchdown drive, stretching the lead to 17-7. Once again, Minnesota converted a key fourth down, when Nelson hit Donovahn Jones for an 11-yard gain on fourth-and 9 from Penn State’s 30-yard line. Nelson eventually scored on a six-yard run.
Penn State had another long drive toward the end of the half, but the Gophers forced the Nittany Lions to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Sam Ficken.
Nelson hit a wide open Williams in the corner for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.